Cyprus blasts ‘pirate state’ Turkey’s new gas drilling bid

A Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) engineer poses on the helipad of Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus, August 6, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Cyprus blasts ‘pirate state’ Turkey’s new gas drilling bid

  • Cyprus denounced Turkey’s bid to drill for natural gas in waters where Cyprus has economic rights
  • This would be Turkey’s fourth such drilling effort since last July

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Sunday denounced Turkey as a “pirate state” that flouts international law as Turkey’s bid to drill for natural gas in waters where Cyprus has economic rights rekindled tensions over energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus said Turkey was now attempting to drill inside an exploration area, or block, south of the ethnically split Mediterranean island nation that’s already licensed to energy companies Eni of Italy and Total of France.
This would be Turkey’s fourth such drilling effort since last July when it dispatched a pair or warship-escorted drill ships to the island’s west and east. It would also mark the second time a Turkish ship was drilling in a block licensed to Eni and Total.
Overall, the two energy companies hold licenses to carry out a hydrocarbons search in seven of Cyprus’ 13 blocks off its south coast. Other companies holding such licenses include ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum, as well as Texas-based Noble Energy and Israeli partner Delek.
Cyprus said despite emerging energy-based partnerships among the countries in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has opted to “go down a path of international illegality” of its own accord. It said Turkey has “provocatively ignored” repeated European Union calls to stop its illegal activities.
The EU has also adopted a mechanism to sanction individuals or companies involved in illegal drilling off Cyprus.
Greece’s foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday that Turkey’s latest action comes on top of numerous violations of international law in the wider region that aim “to serve expansionist aspirations.”
The ministry said in a statement that such breaches of international law won’t be made legal no matter how many times they’re repeated.
Turkey, however, insists it’s protecting its rights and interests, and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots, to the region’s energy resources. It says it’s carrying out drilling activities as part of an agreement with the Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the southern part, seat of the island’s internationally-recognized government, enjoys membership.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Sunday that Turkish Cypriots have as much right to the island’s gas deposits as Greek Cypriots and that “no one should doubt” that Ankara would continue safeguarding their rights.
Aksoy said a Turkish Cypriot proposal to share potential gas revenues remains in play. He also blasted the EU for “double standards” in its approach to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, whose “existence and rights” he said the bloc ignores.
The Cyprus government dismissed Turkey’s assertions of protecting Turkish Cypriot rights as “cynical and hypocritical” since Ankara claims 44% of the island’s exclusive economic zone as its own.
It also said any gas exploration deal that Turkey has signed with Turkish Cypriots is legally invalid according to UN resolutions.
The Cypriot government said Turkish Cypriot interests are protected by an investment fund approved last year for potential gas proceeds.


Parents of Pakistan students in China coronavirus center vent anger at ministers

Updated 19 February 2020

Parents of Pakistan students in China coronavirus center vent anger at ministers

  • Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger at a cabinet meeting on Thursday
  • Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team traveled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation

ISLAMABAD: Angry parents of Pakistani students stuck in the locked down province at the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak confronted government ministers at a meeting on Wednesday, demanding their children are evacuated.
Pakistan has so far ruled out bringing home the more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak of the flu-like virus have been recorded.
Health Minister Zafar Mirza and Minister for Overseas Citizens Zulfiqar Bukhari briefed parents for the first time on Wednesday, telling them the students’ welfare was better off in China and Pakistan did not have adequate facilities to quarantine them if they returned.
But hundreds interrupted the briefing, with some seizing microphones to say they did not want to listen to officials until their children were returned and dozens flooding the stage to crowd around the ministers.
“Bring our kids back, they have been in lockdown for 25 days...they are not getting any support...from you,” one family member who took the microphone said.
Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team traveled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation.
The overseas citizens minister and a spokesman for the health minister did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.
More than 400 parents traveled from around the country to attend the meeting at a school in Islamabad and around 100 protested with placards outside after the meeting, blocking a nearby road. Protests in the larger cities of Lahore and Karachi were held last week.
Many students and their families have expressed growing frustration as the death toll in China mounts, pointing to other countries, including neighboring India and Bangladesh, evacuating their citizens.
Muhammad Wasim Akram, whose wife is a fourth year medical student in the city of Shiyan in Hubei, said he had traveled five hours to the meeting but was left disappointed.
“I traveled from Lahore to attend this nonsense. I feel nothing (has been done)...shame on the government,” he told Reuters, adding students’ mental health was eroding after being stuck inside for weeks, while their access to food and bottled water was limited.