Greece, Turkey spar over offshore drilling in Cyprus

A Turkish police officer patrols the dock, backdropped by the drilling ship ‘Yavuz’ that was dispatched to the Mediterranean, at the port of Dilovas. (AP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Greece, Turkey spar over offshore drilling in Cyprus

  • In June, EU leaders warned Ankara to end drilling waters around the island or face action from the bloc

ISTANBUL: Turkey said on Wednesday it rejected Greek and EU assertions that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate, and said they showed the EU could not be an impartial mediator on the Cyprus problem.
The Foreign Ministry said Turkey’s Fatih ship had started drilling to the west of the Mediterranean island at the start of May and its Yavuz ship had recently arrived east of Cyprus and would also carry out drilling.
Cyprus says Turkey’s actions are contrary to international law. Turkey and the internationally recognized government of the divided island have overlapping claims in that part of the Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich in natural gas.
The Yavuz drillship dropped anchor on Monday to the south of Cyprus’ Karpasia peninsula, a jutting northeastern panhandle. It triggered a strong protest from Nicosia and a rebuke from the EU.
In June, EU leaders warned Turkey to end drilling in waters around the island or face action from the bloc.
“We reject the statements by the Greek Foreign Ministry and EU officials which describe these activities of our country as illegitimate,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.
“It has become clear that the European Union is incapable of taking on a role as an impartial mediator in negotiation processes regarding a resolution to the Cyprus problem,” the ministry said.
Ankara, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, says that certain areas in Cyprus’ offshore maritime zone fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots, who have their own breakaway state in the north of the island which is only recognized by Turkey.

BACKGROUND

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.

Referring to the presence of Turkish drillships in the region, Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told Greek state television: “The Republic of Cyprus will certainly not quit its sovereign rights, and our government is mobilizing the legal and diplomatic means we have.”
Israel and Egypt also expressed unease about Turkey’s moves.
“Israel follows with serious concern recent steps taken by Turkey in the waters off Cyprus’s northeast coast," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, reiterating full support for Cyprus in exercising its sovereign rights.
On Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Turkey’s intention to drill “represents a continuation of unilateral measures that serve to increase tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” stressing the need to avoid escalation.
Israel and Egypt are among eastern Mediterranean countries that agreed this year to set up a forum to create a regional gas market and cut infrastructure costs.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the Fatih ship was drilling in fields within the continental shelf that Turkey declared to the UN, and for which Turkish state energy company Turkish Petroleum (TP) had issued licenses in 2009 and 2012.
The Yavuz vessel was drilling on behalf of Cypriot Turks in a field for which TP had issued a license in 2011, it said.
It said Greece deserved the title of “Europe’s spoiled child” and that EU member Cyprus had together with Athens for years violated international law and dragged the eastern Mediterranean towards instability.
“Being a member of the European Union does not give them the right to usurp the legitimate rights and interests of Cypriot Turks,” the ministry said.


Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.