After several months of relative calm, tensions are once again rising in the natural gas dispute between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus.
On Sunday, sources in the Cypriot government cited by local media rejected threats from Ankara to stop explorations by a research vessel commissioned by Nicosia south of the island. These threats contradict international maritime law, they said, according to state radio.
The research vessel Nautical Geo had begun ultrasonic research of the seabed south of the port city of Limassol on Sunday morning. It is sounding out whether and where a pipeline could be built on the seabed through which natural gas from Israel and Cyprus could be piped to Crete and from there to Central Europe.
Cyprus and Israel had discovered rich natural gas deposits under the seabed in recent years and are planning to build this pipeline together with Greece.
The previous evening, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had described these explorations as “provocative activities” that endangered peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.
Ankara announced that it would take all “necessary steps on the ground” to stop this.
Turkey does not recognize the EU state of Cyprus and opposes the exploration for natural gas or other research by the Cypriot government as long as the Turkish Cypriots, most of whom live in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, do not agree and the Cyprus question is not resolved.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974. In the north there is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.
The entire island has been an EU member since 2004. However, EU law only applies in the south. Numerous talks to overcome the division have failed.