Cyprus: EEZ hydrocarbon-related activities contested

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus, has objected (11 February 2018) to the “Greek Cypriot Administration’s hydrocarbon-related activities in the Eastern Mediterranean” which are said to be “in disregard of the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the Island”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has stated (13 February 2018) that “as long as the Greek Cypriot side continues to take unilateral steps that disregard our legitimate rights over the Island’s natural resources” it would take “reciprocal steps”. The President of the Republic Cyprus has reaffirmed (21 February 2018) that its intentions are to “to fully explore and exploit the hydrocarbon potential in its exclusive economic zone”.

This exchange follows the issuance by the Turkish Naval Force of a NAVTEX message which prevented a ENI-owned drillship from accessing Block 3 due to military training set to occur in the area. The Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center has responded (27 January 2018) with another NAVTEX message, which described Turkey’s activity as “unauthorised and illegal”. The President of the European Council has meanwhile referred (23 February 2018) to “Turkey’s illegal violations in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Aegean” and reiterated support for “the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece also criticised (6 March 2018) Turkey’s position, saying that Turkey “cannot pursue an aggressive foreign policy, not respecting international law and choosing to ignore or circumvent the Law of the Sea”.

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Cyprus offshore exploration blocks. Source: Republic of Cyprus, Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism (Twitter)

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