Turkey plans to deploy Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems which are the source of conflict with the United States along its southern coast just across the waters where it has also been in conflict with Cyprus over offshore gas exploration.
Bloomberg reported this on Thursday, citing confidential knowledgeable four sources.
Late on the same day, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) announced its energy exploration activities will continue in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Turkey will continue its activities in line with the international law and not allow faits accomplis in the East Mediterranean,” the MGK’s statement reads.
Bloomberg’s report came amidst ongoing friction between the two NATO allies, Turkey and the US, which have been at odds with each other regarding the acquisition of Russia’s long-range S-400 battery.
The US has threatened to sanction Turkey if it goes ahead with the missile deal.
The S-400s are designed to have advanced radars to defend airspace against warplanes used by countries in the western military alliance.
Among the US concerns is that Russian hardware in a NATO-member country poses certain risks in terms of Moscow’s accession to sensitive military information, including the collection of data on the US’ F-35 fighter jet’s stealth capabilities.
The US has also expressed deep concern over Turkey’s plans for offshore drilling operations in an area which Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Turkey is reportedly considering alternative deployment locations such as its capital Ankara, the economic hub of Istanbul, the southern Incirlik air base or an unnamed industrial facility which could be the country’s first nuclear power plant, being built by Russia in Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast.
Abdullah Agar, a Turkish security analyst sees the possibility of the S-400s being deployed at Akkuyu quite strong.
“It is a solution that could provide security to the nuclear plant in line with Turkey’s cooperation with Russia and give it an edge in a stiff energy competition in the East Med,” the analyst argued.
Analysts see Turkey’s southern-coast deployment as a strong message to its opponents that it’s determined to protect its security and economic interests.
Bloomberg approached spokesmen for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for comment, however, did not receive a response.
Over the past decade, huge amounts of natural gas reserves have been discovered off the coasts of Egypt, Israel, and Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus, which is an internationally recognized government has licensed several offshore blocks, with some being in disputed waters.
Turkey proposes maritime boundaries in the area to be fixed to safeguard the rights of itself, as well as those of the Turkish Cypriot state, which is recognized only by Ankara.