Turkey Threatens to Sink Italian Oil Vessel Off Cyprus
The government of Cyprus has accused the Turkish military of threatening to sink an oil and natural gas exploration vessel doing exploratory work off the Cypriot coast.
The vessel, the Saipem 12000 charted by the Italian firm Eni, was previously blockaded by Turkish warships on February 7th causing a fresh conflict between the Turkish government and the Greek Cypriots who believe the waters fall under their jurisdiction, Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reports.
Turkey invaded and illegally occupied the north of the island in the 1970s, and is opposed to allowing the Greek Cypriots tap the island’s national resources if Turkish settlers in its territory cannot receive a share.Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos claimed that the ship was stopped again on Friday saying, “The drillship was halted by five Turkish warships and after threats of violence launched [by the Turks] and the threat of a collision with the drillship … the drillship was compelled to return back.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani came out in support of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades saying, “these actions definitely do not contribute to Turkey’s European prospects,” and added that the political bloc was watching the situation with “great concern.”
Critics have suggested that this is empty talk, however, with the EU still set to pay Turkey billions of euros in the years to 2020 — with Britain helping to foot the bill.
Turkey has vowed to extend its naval presence in the area to March 10th, though Eni has stated that the Saipem 12000 will likely be heading to Morocco in the coming days.
The alleged threat of violent action comes only days after Turkish nationalist and deputy leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ozturk Yilmaz threatened to go to war with Greece and invade the Aegean islands.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also no stranger to making threats toward other countries. Earlier this month Erdogan even threatened to give an “Ottoman slap” to the United States if the super-power interfered in his invasion of Syria.
“We have a problem with the YPG,” Erdogan said, referring to the Kurdish group which has been supported by the U.S. to fight the Islamic State.
“But if the United States begins warring against us by the side of the YPG, we will fight them as well.”
The Turkish government has also frequently used the migrant crisis to threaten the European Union. Last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey would open the gates of mass migration if the EU did not uphold the visa-liberalisation for Turkish citizens that was initially promised in the EU-Turkey migrant deal.