“Think about it as a case where the two societies are trying to negotiate on settling territorial disputes, but one side partners with a third party to market resources that belong to the entire island, disrupting the process in a move against law and order,” diplomatic sources explained to Today's Zaman on Friday. The sources also acknowledged that Turkey has conveyed its message “on the unlawful nature of the drill attempt” to the international community as they criticized Greek Cypriots for acting as the sole authority on matters regarding the entire island.
Alithia, a Greek Cypriot daily, had reported that the Greek Cypriots were to begin drilling for natural gas in the Mediterranean with Noble Energy on Oct. 1, the date on which Greek Cypriots celebrate Independence Day, as the US company was granted royalties for the 12th lot Greek Cypriots consider a part of their acclaimed exclusive economic zone. Citing a senior official, Solon Kasinis, Alithia claimed that the move was aimed at creating energy as “the only way for the Greek Cypriots to emerge from the desperate situation they are in right now,” but Turkish experts disputed the claims and agreed that the drill attempt was a move to paralyze the discomfort of the Greek Cypriot public by creating diversion at a time when the country is faced with serious political challenges.
“Greek Cypriots tend to utilize these resources as a tool of political maneuver; it is a political and diplomatic attempt rather than an economic one,” stated academic Yaşar Hacısalihoğlu, a visiting professor at the department of political science and international relations at Texas State University. Speaking to Today's Zaman on Friday, the academic focused on a lack of solution on the divided island as the natural source of the accompanying problems. “There are no clear rights of independence; The island is right there but its political and legal position is completely blurred,” Hacısalihoğlu stated as he evaluated the Greek Cypriot move “an attempt at creating an artificial crisis at a time of negotiations.”
Looking at it from a legitimacy concern on the part of the Greek Cypriots, “Greek Cyprus gained its legitimacy in a strategic move to enable the UN peacekeeping forces into Cyprus,” commented Mehmet Hasgüler, an assistant professor at the European University of Lefke, on Friday. Speaking to Today's Zaman, Hasgüler said that “without crisis, Greek Cyprus has no grounds of legal existence,” as the academic interpreted the drill an attempt of the Greek Cypriot side to cast Turkey in the position of an EU candidate that tries to obstruct the economic activities of an EU member.
“The strategy was to blame the fault of division on the Turkish side for decades, but when the Annan plan failed because of them [Greek Cypriots], they needed another reason to tag Turkey the ‘deal breaker,' when it does everything to comply with the international policies,” commented Hasgüler. The Annan plan was a UN-backed initiative to unite the divided island but failed to be implemented when it was put to a vote in a twin referendum, with the Greek side refusing the prospect while the Turkish side voted in favor.
On the details of the richness of Mediterranean fields, which could reportedly “sustain the energy need in Europe for the next 100 years,” Hacısalihoğlu agreed with the daily's allegations, saying, “The Eastern Mediterranean is significant in geopolitical terms, and it is common knowledge that the seabed is home to very rich resources.” The academic also noted that Israel is one of the stakeholders in the Mediterranean and that a settlement of the territorial dispute is indispensable for any drilling.
The Alithia news story pointed to the first day of October as the date for the first bore to be probed in the Mediterranean, and claimed that the initial results concerning the gas reserves would be obtained within 60 days. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had ruled out drilling by the Greek Cypriots, saying that “they [Greek Cypriots] are engaged with calculations on natural gas drills but they cannot carry out the plans in spite of Turkey in the East Mediterranean.”
“It is a very familiar foreign policy reflex, and Greek Cypriots do this quite often,” Hacısalihoğlu stated as he claimed that Turkey's approach in the matter will determine the developments in the issue. Hasgüler also said that it was in Turkey's best interest to use its soft power, as he explained that “the current government holds credibility with the international community like it was never held by its predecessors before.”