Once again Turkey is using Turkish Cypriots as a strategic minority, much like Germany in the 1930s used Sudetenland Germans to advance its own national interests. This time the issue is oil and gas exploration.
In a recent statement a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman objected to the oil and gas exploration by the Republic of Cyprus in international waters off the southern coast of Cyprus.
Calling the exploration an “adventure” likely to fuel tensions and hamper reunification talks, Burak Ozugergin said Turkey was determined to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the island and warned Cyprus against unilateral moves. But it is difficult to see how Cyprus, by exercising its sovereign rights is violating any rights of the Turkish Cypriots not least because more than 50,000 Turkish Cypriots are armed with Republic of Cyprus passports.
Ozugergin’s comments were in response to a statement made on 10 June by Cyprus that it will not agree to open the key energy chapter in Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union because of interference by Turkish navy ships with an offshore oil-and-gas survey off the Republic’s southern coast. In the statement, Ozugergin said Turkey intends to protect its interests. However it is hard to see what specific interests Turkey is concerned about allegedly on behalf of Turkish Cypriots.
If Turkey genuinely wants to protect Turkish Cypriot interests there are practical things it could do: stop flooding the occupied area with illegal immigrants from Anatolia, remove its 45,000 army of occupation which renders the occupied area a pariah and genuinely seek a Cyprus solution based on international law.
It is also in Turkish Cypriots’ best interests for Turkey to meet the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership, abide by the Ankara Protocol which it signed but is ignoring and to adhere to scores of United Nations resolutions. But none of these are deemed to be in Turkey’s interests so it won’t do so.