Cyprus, Greece and Egypt called on Turkey on Tuesday to “end its provocative actions” in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, including exploring for oil in Cyprus’ territorial waters, which they called “a breach of international law”.
On Thursday, Turkey said it had sent a drilling ship to the area where Greek Cypriot authorities have already awarded hydrocarbon exploration rights to Italian and French companies.
“The Heads of State and Government expressed their grave concern over the current escalation within the maritime areas of the eastern part of the Mediterranean, condemning the continuing Turkish actions in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus and its territorial waters, in violation of international law,” Cyprus, Greece and Egypt said.
Their joint statement was released after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.
The three countries expressed concern at “new attempts to conduct illegal exploration” in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, the statement said.
In July, Greece accused Turkey of undermining security in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling for oil and gas around Cyprus.
Earlier that month, Turkey said it rejected Greek and EU assertions that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate, and said they showed the EU could not be an impartial mediator on the Cyprus problem.
In January, Eastern Mediterranean countries meeting in Cairo, including the three which issued the statement, agreed to set up a forum to create a regional gas market, cut infrastructure costs and offer competitive prices, part of efforts to transform the region into a major energy hub.
Egypt is betting that its strategic location straddling the Suez Canal, its land bridge between Asia and Africa and its infrastructure, including a pipeline network and two gas liquefaction plants, will help turn it into a trading and distribution centre for countries in the region and beyond.