A Greek lawmaker from the ruling party alleged on Wednesday that Turkey’s drilling vessel “plowing back and forth across Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ)” has discovered a big hydrocarbon reserve.
Angelos Syrigos, the MP from New Democracy Party said the newly detected deposit was the reason Turkey had been insisting on drilling off Cyprus since May.
He said this is also why it had recently conducted a maritime boundaries agreement with Libya’s internationally recognized government.
“Turkey has switched gear and wants to revise the existing status quo without delay,” said Syrigos who is also an international law professor at Panteion University.
Turkey’s approach to the Cyprus issue has recently changed again for the same reason, according to the MP.
He said Ankara’s interest in a new five-party meeting to discuss the issue has suddenly ceased as it was waiting for the results of the elections in the Turkish Cypriot.
Syrigos alleged that Ankara hopes to see a new president, instead of the current one, Mustafa Akinci.
The MP said when the time comes for a fresh five-party talk Turkey eyes to be in the same position as the Republic of Cyprus, which has also discovered deposits by developing one of the reserves.
Cyprus was divided in the aftermath of a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of a union with Greece.
Being the only country that recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence, Ankara does not officially acknowledge Cyprus as a state and claims almost half of the ethnically split island nation’s EEZ as its own.
Turkey, therefore, insists that it is operating in waters on its own continental shelf or areas where Turkish Cypriots have rights.
Turkey-detected deposit is in Block 3 which has been licensed by Cyprus to Italy’s Eni, whose drillship was stopped by Turkish military vessels in February 2018.
“Athens is very worried because it sees a Turkey now led by a man [Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan] who is determined to play as hard abroad as he does at home. That means employing any and all means, including gunboat diplomacy,” Syrigos told the Guardian on Tuesday.
The Greek MP also claimed that Erdogan’s aggression has been endorsed by both Washington and Moscow to a great degree, referring to Turkey’s latest incursion into Syria in October.
Ankara attacked the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which once played an important role in the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), proceeding to invade northeastern Syria to clear the area off the Kurds and to set up a “safe zone” there.
At the time, Erdogan claimed that Turkey had been given the green light to launch the offensive into Syria. Although the US administration refused Erdogan’s claim, Trump faced harsh criticism by many for his order to withdraw the US troops from the region just before the Turkish operation.
Syrigos also described the deal signed last week between Turkey and Libya as carrying great strategic importance as Ankara would from now on build its activities on a new legal regime, instead of interpreting existing legal regimes that relied on past international treaties.
He warned that Turkey will not stop to constantly refer to the new conduct even if it “may be illegal through and through.”
The controversial agreement which delineates boundaries in the Mediterranean has sparked a new reaction as it would further escalate tension over drilling off Cyprus in disputed waters.
A spokesman for the Greek government Stelios Petsas told reporters on Tuesday that they had warned Libya’s ambassador to Athens to provide clarifications or else he would be expelled.
By changing its foreign policy landscape rapidly, Turkey was risking its NATO membership and getting closer to Russia, the Greek lawmaker claimed.
“In order to meet Turkey’s accelerating speed, we also need to change our pace. Existing alliances cannot protect us against Turkey’s increasing aggression,” Syrigos said suggesting a change in Greek foreign policy.
In addition to its traditional allies, the Greeks must also focus on new Eastern Mediterranean partnerships, the professor suggested.