ANKARA – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called a Greek Cypriot-Israeli drive to explore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean as “madness” and said it was a blow to negotiations to reunite Cyprus, but said Turkey does not consider use of military force to deter the move for now, Today’s Zaman reported.
Turkey has decided to begin its own gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and boost its military presence in the region after the Greek Cypriot government vowed to go ahead with its plans to drill for gas in Cyprus’ south. Erdogan said earlier this week that Turkey was to send fighter planes and gunboats to patrol the area. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkish naval ships could escort Turkish energy exploration ships in the Mediterranean, raising the possibility of a naval confrontation.
Asked whether military option was on table, Erdogan replied briefly, saying: “Not at the moment.” When asked whether Turkey would stop Greek Cypriot exploration ships or simply conduct its own gas exploration, Erdogan said: “No, we are doing our own exploration.” Cyprus has signed agreements to delineate undersea borders in the eastern Mediterranean with Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. Turkey opposes exploration of gas in the eastern Mediterranean, saying it has rights in the region as the biggest coastal state.