Turkey will “resolutely” continue to explore hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.
Erdogan’s remarks came at a press conference in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, following his meeting with Ersin Tatar, Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Erdogan pinned the blame on the irreconcilable attitudes of the Greek Cypriot side for the lingering Cyprus dispute.
He said a solution to the issue would be possible only if the Greek Cypriot side steps forward for a “sincere and realistic reconciliation base.”
Turkey’s president also warned: “No project ignoring Turkey or the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus can be realized in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“Those who once sought to seize the island by shedding the blood of Turkish Cypriots pursue the same goal through political and economic attacks today,” Erdogan said.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
Since spring this year, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels — Fatih and most recently Yavuz — to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
Turkey’s first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, bought from Norway in 2013, has been conducting exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.
Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since then have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries — Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. — ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
Criticizing EU over Cyprus issue
Erdogan went on to say it was a “shame” of the European Union that the bloc sided with the Greek Cypriots, who have not fulfilled any of its promises made to the UN and international community.
Turkish president criticized the EU for enabling the Greek Cypriot administration to join the pact while excluding TRNC despite the former’s failure to adopt the 2004 Annan plan.
Underlining Turkey’s guarantor status in the Cyprus issue, Erdogan said that those that don’t have a say over the Cyprus issue were not Ankara’s concern.
“With its way of intervention in this [Cyprus] issue, the EU found itself in a position where it supports inequality over equality, injustice over justice and cruelty over peace in the island,” Erdogan added.
“Those who want to test our country’s determination in this regard should have learned their lessons,” he said, adding Turkey would take necessary steps without hesitation.
Also addressing the news conference alongside Erdogan, Tatar said: “Turkey should have the right to unilaterally intervene in Cyprus [issue] in case of an agreement,” Tatar said, adding Turkish Cypriots would never accept any other guarantor mechanisms that might occur in the future.
He hailed the 1960 agreement, which granted Turkey a unilateral right of intervention, and thanked prominent statespeople of the era as Turkey’s 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation would be difficult to carry out otherwise.
The premier said collaboration with Turkey paved the way for TRNC’s growth and the prosperity of its people.
“Sacrifices Turkey has made to protect the rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots empower us,” Tatar added.
He went on to say that Ankara’s steps for hydrocarbon exploration activities in the region served to the people of both Turkey and TRNC.
“Turkish Cypriots have always favored peace and consensus,” he said, adding Turkey’s role as a guarantor country of the Cyprus issue has always been significant for TRNC.
Tatar is in Turkey for his first official visit upon the invitation of Erdogan.
Some high-level officials from TRNC are accompanying Tatar during his trip.