East-Med Crisis: Turkey and Greece Clash Over Oil Exploration Rights Off Cyprus

Written by | Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

The European Union and the United States are jointly putting pressure on Turkey to halt its decision regarding exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus. The chief of EU diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, has called on Ankara to demonstrate respect for the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone and restrain itself from any action to which, as she said, the EU would respond accordingly.
The Greek ministry of foreign affairs reminded Turkey of the EU Council conclusions from March this year, which says that “the European Council strongly condemns Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece.” On top of the EU’s pressure, US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that Ankara’s decision was “highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region.” Turkey rejected the stipulation of “illegal action” and insists that it does have “legitimate rights stemming from international law” to engage in exploratory drilling.
Cypriot leadership is about to raise the issue at the upcoming EU Council in Sibiu as the Cypriot government has already signed energy contracts with Eni, Total and ExxonMobil. The discovery of oil and gas reserves in the area brought Greece, Cyprus and Israel together as they are trying to navigate the management of the newly found resources and attract foreign investment. The three countries will also benefit from the support of EastMed, a pipeline that is meant to bring gas reserves from Cyprus via Greece to the mainland EU. The tensions between Turkey and Cyprus are an ongoing dispute between both sides in the aftermath of the 1974 Turkish military invasion of the northern third of the island.

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