22 June, Friday


US Navy denies reports of bolstering East Med presence

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The U.S. Navy denied Thursday reports on bolstering its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean theater through the Sixth Fleet to guard Exxon Mobil's oil and gas exploration for the Greek Cypriot Administration off Cyprus.
 
A number of unconfirmed sources that reported on Tuesday that ExxonMobil's vessel will be protected by Iwo Jima amphibious ships of the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet.
 
On Feb. 11, Turkish warships stopped the Saipem 12000 rig belonging to the Italian energy firm ENI as it headed toward an area southeast of Cyprus.
 
Answering to an inquiry by the Daily Sabah, a spokesperson for the fleet said: "…the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently conducting a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations."
 
"The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), along with embarked units including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4 arrived off the coast of Israel March 6, to participate in exercise Juniper Cobra 2018," it added.
 
Whereas other ships cited in the reports, the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and embarked Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), entered the Black Sea on March 7, 2018 to participate in Romanian-led amphibious exercise Spring Storm 2018, it said.
 
Turkey's Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Thursday that Turkey has received confirmation that an ExxonMobil vessel was heading toward the Eastern Mediterranean for oil and gas exploration. However, he noted that he had no information as to whether the U.S. Navy arrived in the region to protect the ExxonMobil vessel.
 
He added that Ankara would continue to preserve its legal rights to hydrocarbon explorations in the region. The spokesman also said there was a regime established regarding the oil and gas explorations in the region and that there are unilaterally declared exclusive economic zones. "There is a principle Turkey has put forward for both the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Greek Cypriots to carry out exploration activities with joint work in the region. The Greek Cypriot administration is violating it. We will not change our principle from now on," Kalın said.
 
Moreover, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also evaluated the issue in his meeting with TRNC Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman in the capital Ankara yesterday.
 
Speaking on the allegations that the drilling vessels belonging to ExxonMobil energy company, which were heading toward the eastern Mediterranean for oil and gas exploration, will be protected by the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet, Yıldırım said: "All kinds of hydrocarbon resources around the island of Cyprus are the common property of all people living on the island, in the north, or in the south. Therefore, activities that are unilaterally initiated around the region are never welcomed by us."
 
Prime Minister Yıldırım said if in a real sense a bilateral state formation and a permanent and sustainable solution is achieved on the island, then all the resources will be evaluated for the prosperity of all people living on the island. Yıldırım also stressed that any provocative activities will face repercussions.
 
"If an authority is sought for permission for the extraction of the resources on the island, it is the people of both Turkish and Greek Cyprus. Any project in which these two parties do not agree is regarded as an attempt to violate the sovereign rights of the TRNC and as a threat to us. It does not matter who made it," Yıldırım added.
 
The TRNC's prime minister recalled Nicos Anastasiadis' previous statements, which confirmed that a fund will be established for drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean and that Turkish Cypriots will also use that fund. He further stressed that the unilateral claims of Greek Cypriots on the hydrocarbon resources in the region are unacceptable.
 
Meanwhile on Wednesday, speaking at the Mediterranean Economy Forum in Mersin, KKTC Economy and Energy Minister Özdil Nami touched upon the tension caused by the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral natural gas exploration activities in the Mediterranean.
 
"We are not the reason for the tension. The Greek Cypriot side is, with its insistent attitude on taking a one-sided step. We have continually emphasized that these resources belong to all of the Cypriots. Nobody can just hand everything over to the Greek Cypriot side," Nami said.
 
He also sighted that data has arrived on the important natural resources off the coast of the Cyprus island, particularly the natural gas, and that the tension in the region has also started to increase with it.
 
"Therefore, we have shown every effort in the past to protect peace and tranquility in our island. We will continue to do so. It is also our right to expect that the other side will respect our rights and interests. We invite all interested parties, especially the Greek Cypriot side and those who have signed agreements with them to abstain from taking unilateral steps and seek the approval of the Turkish Cypriot side," Nami said.

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