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Turkish Drillship Leaves Port for Controversial Campaign off Cyprus

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The Yavuz at the port of Belde, Turkey (Turkiye Petrolerii)

By The Maritime Executive 06-20-2019 08:35:32

On Thursday, after a ceremony at the port of Belde, Turkey, the government-owned drillship Yavuz departed to begin a controversial exploration campaign off Cyprus. It is expected to arrive and begin operations early next month. 

The Yavuz (roughly translated, "Resolute" or "Ferocious") will drill for gas off the eastern coast of Cyprus, within the Cypriot-claimed EEZ. Turkey claims that the waters belong to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state which is only recognized by Ankara. 

Another Turkish drillship, the Fatih ("Conqueror"), recently began work on an exploration well off the west coast of Cyprus, a move that the U.S. State Department described as "highly provocative." Turkey's NATO allies, including the United States, France and Greece, have called on it to halt its exploration campaign and respect the Cypriot EEZ. 

Turkey claims that it has an absolute right to explore the region. "The legitimate rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus over the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean are not debatable," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May. "We expect NATO to respect Turkey's rights in this process and support us in preventing tensions." 

Greece and Cyprus recently called on EU member nations to punish Turkey with sanctions if the unpermitted drilling activity continues. Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron lent his support to response measures, saying that "Turkey must stop its illegal activities” and that “the European Union will not show weakness on this matter."

However, in a draft resolution from a meeting of high-level European ministers Thursday, the European Council said only that it would "closely monitor developments" and "stand ready to respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus." 

In a press conference Sunday, Erdogan mocked Macron's statement. "Those who have the right to speak about the eastern Mediterranean can speak. When did France have the right to speak on the eastern Mediterranean? Do they have a coast in the eastern Mediterranean?" he said.