Turkey's foreign minister warned the Greek Cypriot government against drilling hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, saying on Friday that Ankara will show the “appropriate reaction” if Greek Cyprus moves ahead with exploration plans.
“We will show the appropriate reaction if any further step is taken,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters. He said the Greek Cypriot administration does not have the right to embark on oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean unless the Cyprus issue is resolved and a government representing the entire island is formed.
Turkey's stance is "firm and clear," he said, noting that the Greek Cypriot stance was in violation of international law norms as well.
Davutoğlu's remarks came after a Greek Cypriot announcement that drilling for hydrocarbons off the island's southern coast will start on Oct. 1. Greek Cypriot Energy Service Director Solon Kassinis said on Tuesday that once the drilling starts, the size of hydrocarbon reserves would be clear in two months' time, the Cyprus Mail reported on Wednesday.
Turkey objects to any Greek Cypriot search for oil and gas inside the island's 51,000 square-kilometer (17,000 square mile) exclusive economic zone off its southern coast, saying it is in violation of the rights of the Turkish Cypriot, who run their own state in the north of the island. Meanwhile, Turkey is considering plans to start oil and gas exploration off the coast of Turkish Cyprus.
Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974, when Turkey intervened in response to a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Greek Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys membership benefits. Turkey only recognizes Turkish Cyprus, where it maintains a military presence of 35,000 troops.
Greek Cyprus earlier licensed American Noble Energy to explore an 800,000-acre area bordering Israeli waters where massive gas fields were found under the seabed. Two fields, Tamar and Dalit, discovered in 2009, are due to start producing in 2012, and experts say their estimated combined reserves of 5.5 trillion cubic feet (160 billion cubic meters) of natural gas can cover Israel's energy needs for the next two decades.
Greek Cyprus and Israel signed an accord last November demarcating their maritime borders that triggered strong reactions from Turkey, which called the deal “null and void” because it ignores the rights and jurisdiction of Turkish Cyprus on the divided island.