Eastern Mediterranean crisis balloons as Turkish drill ships multiply

The tension is rising

In the early hours of July 1, a loud shudder rippled through Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus. Spooked residents might have mistaken the explosion for the opening shots of another war between the Greek Cypriots and Turkey amid sharpening tensions over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean that are drawing in regional stakeholders Egypt, Israel and Greece.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu ramped these up to a new level last week with stark warnings that the Greek Cypriots “can’t take the slightest step in the Eastern Mediterranean. If they dare, they will receive the appropriate response.” Cavusoglu was alluding to Turkey’s 1974 military intervention on the island that has left it divided between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus recognized solely by Ankara.

Upping the ante, Turkey dispatched a second drill ship, the Yavuz, which arrived yesterday off the northernmost tip of the island, the Karpas Peninsula. The area was “licensed” by the Turkish Cypriots to the state-owned Turkish Petroleum company, even though under international law they are not authorized to do so.

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