‘What we stole from you is ours and what we haven’t stolen from you, you must share.’
This is in effect Turkey’s position with regard to the hydrocarbon energy resources of the Republic of Cyprus, an independent member state of the Commonwealth, Council of Europe and European Union.
Having ethno-religiously cleansed more than 170,000 Greeks and Christians from 36 per cent of the territory (and 57 per cent of the coastline) of the Republic of Cyprus and having arbitrarily appropriated the homes and properties of the indigenous people it forcibly displaced, the Turkish government is now brazenly attempting to deny this sovereign state access to its own energy resources. This is nothing other than neo-imperialism from the modern incarnation of the Ottoman Caliphate and Empire, the imperial ruler of the Island of Cyprus from 1571 until 1878.
On 10 February, Turkey’s belligerence was shamelessly demonstrated by its harassment of the drilling vessel Saipem 12000 which belongs to Italian oil giant ENI. The Italian vessel was blocked from entering a location within block 3 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone by Turkish warships. A stand-off continues.
Turkey’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.
On the one hand, Turkey asserts that its illegal subordinate entity in the Turkish-occupied zone is an ‘independent state’. Yet on the other hand, Turkey lays claim to the energy reserves in the area of the Republic of Cyprus to the south that Turkey does not occupy. At the same time, Turkey refuses to recognise the Republic of Cyprus.
In a similarly hypocritical vein, Turkey has purported to invoke international law while remaining one of a minority of states which have never become state parties of the UN Law of the Sea Convention of 1982; the others in the same boat as Turkey include North Korea.
Ankara’s cynical contention that the resources of the Republic of Cyprus should be ‘shared’ by ‘the two communities’ exposes its mendacity. It also exposes Ankara’s segregationism and neo-imperial desire to control Cyprus as a territory and to exploit its people and resources.
Since its two invasions of the Republic of Cyprus launched in 1974, Turkey showed the world its unique interpretation of the concept of ‘sharing’. To begin with, Turkey purported to carve Cyprus into two, including an ethno-religiously cleansed Turkish-occupied northern zone. By means of an illegal puppet regime owing its loyalty to Ankara, Turkey then illegally usurped the properties belonging to forcibly displaced persons. These properties were then illegally distributed to Turkish citizens who had been illegally imported to illegally colonise the illegally occupied north.
Ankara’s claim that it is acting to secure a ‘share’ of Cyprus’ energy resources for the Turkish Community is as bogus as its absurd claim that it invaded and occupied part of Cyprus for the sake of ‘peace’.
In truth, Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus with the pre-planned aim of transforming its north into a de facto province of Turkey.
The increasingly unhinged President Erdogan has reacted with his usual brand of neo-imperial outbursts mixed with naked threats. In his view: “Those who think that we’ve erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong.” With regard to companies commissioned by the Cyprus government to explore the island’s energy reserves, President Erdogan has claimed: “Their swagger lasts only until they come across with our army, ships and planes… our rights in the Aegean and Cyprus are the same”. What President Erdogan really means is ‘might is right’.
We welcome statements by EU officials such European Parliament President Tajani who called on Turkey to respect international law and refrain from engaging in dangerous provocations in what he called “Cyprus’ territorial waters”. However, the response from the United Nations, as ever, was found wanting. To quote one of its recent statements: “The [UN] Secretary-General regrets that tensions over hydrocarbons exploration has escalated once again, and emphasizes that all concerned parties should do their utmost to defuse tensions.” The UN Secretary-General did not explain that, under his nose, only one party is raising tensions. That party is Turkey.
Perhaps President Erdogan should come to terms with the fact that the days of the Ottoman Caliphate and Empire are long gone. He should refrain from destabilising the eastern Mediterranean region and threatening a member state of the EU. He should accept that the resources of the Republic of Cyprus belong to it as an independent sovereign state. He should also ensure that Turkey becomes a state party to the UN Law of the Sea Convention and if Turkey has any dispute with the Republic of Cyprus this should be addressed by the dispute resolution mechanisms built into the Convention.
Turkey’s policies of partition, segregation, colonisation and exploitation do not serve the interests of any citizen of the Republic of Cyprus or of the European Union of which it forms part. It is high time that the Republic of Cyprus, its properties and its resources were left to it and, by extension, to its citizens of all ethnic, religious or other backgrounds.
In the meantime, we call upon the UN, the EU and all sovereign states to do what they have hitherto failed to do in relation to the bully of the eastern Mediterranean known as Turkey: they should impose sanctions and other restrictive measures.
Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation that campaigns for a Cyprus free from Turkish occupation and a unitary Cypriot state without segregation along ethnic and religious lines.