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.


Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Updated 27 February 2020

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.