Ankara will gradually escalate the tension in the region. The assessments surrounding the next steps of the occupying power are the use of all tools to maintain this climate, which will peak as we approach the presidential elections in Turkey, which are scheduled for June 2023.
At the same time, it is obvious that the Turkish President also evaluates the other open fronts he has, especially in Syria and Iraq, while he also invests in his country’s role in the Ukrainian one, as he sees his country being upgraded. It is also clear, as informed sources note, that before each move it also weighs the developments on other fronts and how much the broader plans and aspirations of the occupying power will be affected.
As far as Greece and Cyprus are concerned, the game is determined by a series of facts and events.
Erdogan was expected in Cyprus on July 20 to participate in the celebrations for the invasion and his presence had been linked to announcements either for Famagusta or for the annexation of the occupied territories. The trip did not take place, despite information to the contrary. The previous day he was in Tehran for a tripartite meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ibrahim Reishi.
He also had private meetings with his two counterparts. The card of Famagusta in relation to the next steps, as well as that of annexation, remain on the table, in the choices of the occupying power and will proceed when it is judged that the moment is appropriate.
The next step involves sending the new driller, Abdulahamid Han, to the area. Where he will go is not known. Only that it will sail on August 9th. Will it go on a trial run to test the rig? This has also happened in the past and the drilling rig moved within Turkish waters. If not, then the drill will be sent to the target, which has not yet been announced.
Although Ankara clearly does not take into account the reactions primarily of Nicosia, but also of Athens, it counts any other third party reactions that may affect broader plans. For example, on another front, that of Syria, Ankara clearly takes into account what they say in Moscow. Because if Russia reacts to the Turkish attempt to control the specific zone, which also affects Moscow, then the issue will not be limited to the Syrian one. Any reaction from Russia will also affect the role of Erdogan, the “peacemaker”, in the Ukrainian one.
As far as Greece and Cyprus are concerned, there is a difference in how Ankara sees its next moves. If the drilling rig is sent to the Cypriot EEZ, south or west of the island, the reactions are predictable.
Nicosia, due to its capabilities, cannot prevent, much less stop, an illegal Turkish drilling, and will therefore be limited to demagogues, which Ankara sends unsolicited. In the case, however, in which the drilling rig will sail in the maritime area of Greece, it may be a collision option. And this is because it is expected that Athens will react to stop the illegal drilling.
Estimates suggest that Erdogan will maintain the tension, but if he decides to go to extremes, then this will probably happen when we are getting closer to the Turkish elections, in order to use it for internal consumption.
It is noted in this regard that the occupying power does not make these moves for internal reasons, for pre-election reasons, but because they have been included in strategic and geopolitical plans.
Temporary solution for envoy to Cyprus
The inability of the United Nations to reach an agreement on the terms of reference for sending a special envoy of the International Organization for the Cyprus issue, leads Antonio Guterres to temporary solutions. He has entrusted this temporary arrangement to two high-ranking officials of the UN Secretariat in New York. They are Deputy General Secretary Rosemary Di Carlo and her assistant, Alexander Dzhega.
Both have to do with Cyprus, in the sense that they have traveled to the island and had contacts. A more recent visit to Cyprus was made by Mr. Tsega, who had also traveled to Ankara. A key theme of his last mission was the theme of the envoy. This is not an appointment, but two associates of the General Secretary, who will travel to the region when there are contacts with those involved, mainly with guarantors.
Ankara’s communication channels with companies operating in the Cypriot EEZ
There are channels of communication between occupying Turkey and companies operating in the Cypriot EEZ and it seems that whatever moves are made do not surprise either side. This is, of course, nothing new for those who follow the developments in the maritime area of Cyprus. Information indicates that Ankara has created, if not directly with the companies, at least the governments of the countries from which they come, a “relationship of understanding”.
The same information states that this applies more to Rome, in order to avoid “unpleasant developments”, during drilling, while in this context there can be variations of plans, but not their reversal. After all, in January 2018 there was movement from the Turkish side and an ENI vessel was intercepted, which was sailing towards the sea section of the Cypriot EEZ. That episode also created channels of communication. This scenario, it seems, is known to the Republic of Cyprus, which has assurances from the companies that the country’s energy program is not changing much.
In this regard, it is recalled that, for example, a Turkish drilling rig of TRAO was previously sent to offshore section 6 of the Cypriot EEZ, in which the Italian-French joint venture ENITOTAL is active. The consortium was aware of this and in fact it was reassuring to the Republic of Cyprus, since as it was reported at the time, the Turks would be “drilling” far from their own drilling and that they were not expected to have any results there.
However, in relation to energy, the EU seems to be intervening as well. with various “ideas”, which shape the conditions for the discussions to reach the Turkish proposals for co-exploitation and co-management of natural gas. The issue of installing photovoltaics has been discussed in the past.
The reference, however, by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (interview with the Cyprus News Agency,) on the utilization of hydrocarbons, refers to a solution to the energy issue without a solution to the Cyprus issue. Said the President: “An agreement between the two communities on the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, for example in relation to the sharing of electricity to be produced through FSRU (floating regasification unit) could to be the trigger for a wider discussion on energy management in Cyprus and how Cyprus can best be interconnected with the European electricity grid”. Was this matter discussed with Nicosia? If so, is it understood that such an arrangement concerns co-management of natural resources before reaching an agreement on the Cyprus issue?
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