Incursion into Cyprus’ EEZ: Turkey’s latest invasion

“Turkey’s latest unlawful incursion into the territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus is tantamount to another invasion” said Lobby for Cyprus spokesperson Vangelis Christou.

“In blatant disregard for international law, the Turkish vessel Fatih and its support ships entered the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the free areas of Cyprus on or about Saturday 4 May. Turkey intends to drill for hydrocarbon resources to which Turkey has no legal or moral claim”, explained Christou.

He went on to say that “Turkey, having already broken the law by invading, occupying and ethno-religiously cleansing 36 percent of the territory and 57 percent of the coastline of Cyprus in 1974, has now sent its drilling ship and support vessels to break the law again by engaging in theft, plunder and pillage.”

Turkey has no right to appropriate for itself hydrocarbons lawfully belonging to Cyprus. Indeed, bearing in mind that Turkey has been the occupying power in the northern area of Cyprus since 1974, any arbitrary extraction of Cypriot natural gas by Turkey would not only violate the United Nations Charter of 1945 and the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention of 1982, the latter of which Turkey has never signed. It would also constitute a war crime.

Article 6(b) of the Nuremberg Charter of 1945 brands plunder as a war crime. Article 8.2(b)(v) of the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court of 1998 brands pillage as a war crime.

“It is no surprise that Turkey is not a signatory or a party to a host of international treaties, including the United Nations International Convention of Law of the Sea of 1982 and the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court of 1998. After all, successive Turkish governments have resorted to operating outside of the law and the norms of civilised behaviour, particularly in regard to Cyprus. The Turkish government continues to behave as a regional bully and as if it were a colonial power that can steal land, property and resources of other countries”, said Christou.

Lobby for Cyprus welcomes the statement by Federica Mogherini (EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice President of the EU Commission) on 4 May 2019. She expressed “grave concern over Turkey’s announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus”. Ms Mogherini urgently called on Turkey “to show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone and refrain from any such illegal action to which the European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus.” (Source: https://europa.eu/!Du38hq)

A spokesperson of the UK High Commission in Cyprus reportedly commented that “the UK agrees with the High Representative’s position on the issue” while on 5 May 2019 the US State Department issued a statement disclosing the following:

“The United States is deeply concerned by Turkey’s announced intentions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its Exclusive Economic Zone. This step is highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint.” (Source: www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2019/05/291497.htm#)

Christou reacted to these statements by commenting that “words are not enough”. He added: “Concrete action must now be taken to censure Turkey for its latest violations in the EEZ and continental shelf of the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara must be punished for acting as a sustained source of instability and conflict in the region”, said Christou.

“The UN, the EU, the Commonwealth and other international organisations must take robust action. Nothing short of international sanctions and other restrictive measures will remind Ankara of its obligation to behave in a civilised manner and to desist from terrorising Cyprus in such a brazen manner.

“The citizens of Cyprus, particularly its forcibly displaced citizens, have long paid the price of the international community’s tolerance of Turkey’s continuing violations in Cyprus. It is time that this tolerance ended and sanctions must be imposed forthwith on Turkey. This bully and its autocratic President must be held to account”, concluded Christou.