Turkey had no choice but to send ships in East Med, says FM

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Turkey does not want to come into conflict with anyone but needs to take necessary precautions to ensure the security of its maritime traffic, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Saturday in reference to the Eastern Mediterranean agreement recently signed with Libya.

Visiting Rome on the sidelines of the MED 2019: Mediterranean Dialogue conference, the foreign minister told Italian journalists that Turkey is the guarantor of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and has tried all means to reach a solution with Greece on the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The Greek side does not want a solution,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that Turkey has been suggesting to the Greek Cypriots, Greek authorities, the European Union and the United Nations to avoid unilateral activities regarding gas exploration activities in the region and the distribution of the revenue by the commission.

“We had to send our ships after seeing they did not want to cooperate,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkey and Libya signed a deal last week after a meeting between Erdoğan and the head of the Presidential Council of Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, Fayez Al Sarraj, in Istanbul. The deal enabled Turkey to secure its rights in the Mediterranean while preventing any fait accompli by other regional states.

On Nov. 27, the Turkish Communications Directorate announced that Turkey and Libya had signed two memorandums of understanding, one of which was the Restriction of Marine Jurisdictions agreement that determined a portion of Turkey’s maritime jurisdiction in the region.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the agreement complies with international law, including the relevant articles pertaining to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the TRNC, is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with two drilling vessels, Fatih and Yavuz, along with its seismic vessels Oruç Reis and Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, in the same region.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot Administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.

In 1974, following a coup by Greece aiming to annex Cyprus, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power.

In 1983, the TRNC was founded and the decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all failing. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. – came to an end without any progress in 2017 in Switzerland.

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