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Realpolitik, Turkey and Cyprus's Gas Fields

Turkish warships on patrol (Thomas Koch / Shutterstock)

Recently, Cyprus said Eni had discovered a potentially sizeable gas deposit at another target southwest of the island, close to where Greek Cypriots reside on their southern half of the island. But no sooner was the announcement made that Turkey dispatched warships to keep ENI's drillship from reaching the drilling location: Block 3 of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The standoff continues to this very day.

Turkey is suspicious of any mining of the island's hydrocarbon resources by Greek Cypriots, presumably thinking that the rewards would not be shared with Turkish Cypriots to the north. The Cypriot government says it has a sovereign right to drill for gas and that if the search is successful, any income would be shared equitably if the island is reunified.

The EU cautioned Turkey to respect the territory of its member states and to avoid ratcheting up tensions. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the southern part enjoys full membership benefits. "Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to good neighbourly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state" European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.

Cyprus lacks the military wherewithal to mount much of a challenge to Turkish warships. And other EU member states are loathe to bring Turkey to task, as it controls the refugee floodgates and pushing Ankara too hard could result in these gates being opened. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, knows exactly which buttons to press to bend the Greek Cypriots and their EU allies to his will.

Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Italian government ‘was taking all possible diplomatic measures for the resolution of the matter’.

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