Turkey threatens to block drilling in Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus

Turkey has threatened to block  any "unauthorized" search for gas and oil in what it considers its economic exclusive zone in the eastern Mediterranean after Cyprus awarded hydrocarbon exploration and drilling rights to Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum, following a statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday, 5 December 2021.

"The media reports informing that the GCA has granted a hydrocarbon exploration permit to the ExxonMobil – Qatar Petroleum consortium for the so-called license area 5, which was declared unilaterally, ignoring the rights of our country and the Turkish Cypriots, has once again made it clear who is really in favour of inciting tension in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"A part of the so-called license area in question violates Turkey's continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the other hand, this one-sided step also ignores the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, the co-owners of the Island.

"As has been the case so far, Turkey will never allow any foreign country, company or vessel to engage in unauthorized hydrocarbon exploration activities in its maritime jurisdiction areas, and will continue to resolutely defend her rights and those of the TRNC." reads the statement.

“Turkey will never allow any foreign country, company or ship to engage in hydrocarbon exploration activities in its maritime jurisdictions,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

Turkey “will continue to resolutely defend” its rights as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Republic of Cyprus (Cyprus) and Turkey have been engaged in a dispute over the extent of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ), ostensibly sparked by oil and gas exploration in the area. Turkey objects to Cypriot drilling in waters that Cyprus has asserted a claim to under international maritime law. The present maritime zones dispute touches on the perennial Cyprus and Aegean disputes; Turkey is the only member state of the United Nations that does not recognise Cyprus, and is one of the few not signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Cyprus has signed and ratified.

Turkey claims a portion of Cyprus's EEZ based on Turkey's definition that no islands, including Cyprus, can have a full 200 nautical mile EEZ authorized to coastal states and should only be entitled to their 12 nautical mile territorial seas. Turkey's definition creates a dispute over the rights to waters south of Cyprus containing an offshore gas field. This definition is not shared by most other states.

Furthermore, the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which was created as result of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, also claims portions of Cypriot EEZ. Cyprus and other countries including Israel, France, Russia and Greece view these claims on Cyprus's land and sea as illegal under international law and urge Turkey to refrain from illegal drilling for gas in the island's EEZ.

The European Union has threatened Turkey with economic and political sanctions for violating the Cypriot EEZ.

Since Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, there are no diplomatic relations between the two states. The Republic of Cyprus has refused to negotiate the maritime dispute and natural resources found in Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ with the Turkish Cypriot leadership.