A milestone in the history of the Republic of Cyprus was its proclamation of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in April 2004 by the late president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos.
However, his dream for the demarcation of the EEZs of Greece and Cyprus has not yet been realised. At least, the Cypriots are fighting tooth and nail digging their EEZ and are constantly finding hydrocarbons, while the Greeks do not have a single drilling rig!
Today, of the 149 coastal states in the world, 138 have declared and most have demarcated EEZs. The tragic truth is that Greece, which made history since ancient times with its seas, does not belong to them!
The Cypriots, however, despite the adverse conditions and threats, continue alone the huge effort to find hydrocarbons in their EEZ.
In two separate press releases published on Monday, August 22, 2022, Total Energies and Eni announced a "significant gas discovery" in Cyprus with a net gas thickness of more than 260 metres.
The French company and the Italian counterpart indicate that it is located in the Cronos-1 well, in the block 6,160 km off the Cypriot coast (see map below). Eni reports that natural gas was found at a depth of 2,287 metres.
This is actually the third discovery for which there is an indication of quantities of natural gas. The first was with 4.5 trillion cubic feet, followed by the second with an estimate of between 5 and 8 trillion.
Greek prime ministers from Costas Simitis to Kyriakos Mitsotakis refuse to demarcate an EEZ with Cyprus, succumbing to another unwritten casus belli of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
This was also the reason why the then foreign ministers Giorgos Papandreou and Dora Bakoyannis fought the late Tassos Papadopoulos in declaring the Cyprus EEZ. It is worth recalling that only Tassos Papadopoulos straightened his stature by essentially declaring "we are talking about EEZ and nothing else".
Turkey did not immediately realise the consequences of the intelligent initiative of the President of Cyprus and today it condemns its inaction at the time. Then the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdogan was inexperienced in diplomacy and simply stated that Turkey does not recognize the EEZ of Cyprus. Now it blows and it doesn't get cold.
So today, 18 years later, he is trying to correct his blunder by constantly threatening not only Cyprus but also Greece, challenging its sovereignty over 18 Greek islands and demanding co-management of hydrocarbons that do not belong to his country.
Since 2002, when Greek-Turkish exploratory contacts began, Turkey had forbidden Greece to discuss the issue of the EEZ, with the sole exception of Monday, September 9, 2013.
On that day, the 55th round of Greek-Turkish talks regarding the maritime zones in the Aegean took place. It was a historic meeting, because for the first time Ambassador Apostolidis, who was the head of the Greek delegation, as he is today, at the behest of the then Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, raised the issue of the EEZ with his Turkish counterpart.
Even in Greece they ignore that the great enemy of Turkey in the last 40 years is the EEZ. You should have been present at the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea to see Turkey's hatred of the EEZ concept and the full rights it gives to the islands.
One issue, which Athens has overlooked for years now, is that Turkey never refers to the Cypriot EEZ, but always to the Cypriot continental shelf. Thus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, when commenting on the announcements of the ENI-TOTAL consortium on the Cypriot EEZ, constantly referred to the continental shelf:
"Our continental shelf does indeed extend to these blocks, but the point where drilling is taking place is further south than the southern limit of our continental shelf. Already we do not allow them to enter our continental shelf. As a result the southern and western limits of our continental shelf are visible. To the west we left the Greek islands and territorial waters of 6 miles. We operate in accordance with international law. Within our continental shelf, we continue drilling and seismic surveys".
And of course, he did not forget to refer to the "fair distribution of revenues" of the Republic of Cyprus and, certainly, he will not object to the "fair distribution of revenues" of the Greek EEZ.
Thus, the position of the State Department representative who stated that Cyprus' oil and gas resources, like all its resources, should be shared fairly between the two communities .
As Kostas Venizelos wrote:
"It is obvious that the United States with the "tail" wants to keep "balances" and "turn a blind eye" to Ankara, which claims to share the natural gas for the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots as well. Turkey wants to have a role and say in the energy program of the Republic of Cyprus and Washington has found a way to satisfy the unreasonable and illegal claim of the occupying power - for sharing and co-management. So, the USA discovered that the distribution must be "fair"! A sovereign right of a state is considered bicommunal. It is not about the state but about the... ethnicities, the communities. Since when?”
It seems that the time is approaching for the major intervention of the USA in the Greek-Turkish conflict, which is considered a great wound for America since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The Americans, from the time of Clinton to the time of Biden, have not managed to solve the problem of the Eastern Mediterranean, but now everything shows that they are preparing to seek a solution to the Greek-Turkish dispute, since they do not know what the outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian war will be.
Another element, to which we have not given due attention, is that the Americans believe that the International Court of Justice in The Hague cannot resolve the Greek-Turkish dispute. They believe that the Turks will not accept the Hague's decision because it will not give it what it seeks. In addition, they believe that the Mitsotakis proposal for The Hague to delimit the EEZ and continental shelf is not going to change and the rivalry between the two states will intensify further and soon.
The Americans consider the Eastern Mediterranean a critical geopolitical terrain for their interests and want to defuse the Greek-Turkish crisis by bringing to the fore their old idea of co-exploitation or better co-management of the wealth of our sea in the Kastelorizo-Crete-Cyprus triangle.
The Americans know that the largest area of the EEZs belong to Greece and Cyprus. But they also know something else, that the sea of Turkey has no hydrocarbons! So they insist on the idea of co-management which is nothing more than sharing our own mineral wealth with the Turks.
After all, Cyprus is far away for many Greeks. However, the refusal to demarcate the EEZ with Cyprus will be recorded as one of the greatest shames in the history of modern Greece.
Theodorous Karyotis is a regular contributor to Hellas Journal.