NATO upgrading Nicosia; strong Turkish reaction
With coordinated moves, Ankara is trying to show that it does not recognize the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as it sends a seismic vessel to the region, along with a drilling rig. For Turkey, however, the serious issue is the effort at NATO level to upgrade relations with the Republic of Cyprus.
Specifically, Ankara is sending the Barbaros research vessel to areas off the south of Limassol that form part of the Cyprus EEZ and where research on behalf of Nicosia is already underway. Via Navtex 549/19 Turkey reports on seismic surveys in the region (by Barbaros and the accompanying vessels TANUX-1 and APOLLOMOON), which will run until July 31, 2019.
A day after this announcement, Ankara followed up with a second Navtex regarding drilling by the Fatih (“Conqueror”) floating drill 80 kms off Paphos to the west. The area covered includes a part of the Cyprus EEZ. The point at which drilling will take place is considered to be an indication of Turkey clearly challenging the view of Athens and Nicosia that the Greek and Cypriot EEZs are adjacent. Drilling is expected to begin in coming days and are scheduled to last until 3 September. The Conqueror will be accompanied by three support vessels.
In this climate, Ankara reacted to NATO’s invitation to the Republic of Cyprus to participate in the SACEUR chief handing over ceremony. This caused the fury of Turkey which issued a strong announcement and decided that its representatives will not be participating in the event.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, through its representative Hami Aksoy, issued an announcement denouncing the invitation and calling it a reckless act. At the same time, Turkey did not take part in the ceremony in response to Nicosia being invited, which, according to Turkey, “has no place at such a ceremony since it is not a NATO member”.
Ankara is reacting strongly as there are signs that the US may lift an arms embargo on Nicosia, and it is realizing that an upgrade in US – Republic of Cyprus relations is possible./ibna