In what looks like a provocative move that increases tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish government authorized the country’s Navy for full implementation of recently amended rules of engagement off the shores of littoral countries Cyprus, Egypt and Israel.
Turkey has been objecting to hydrocarbon drilling activities jointly undertaken by the three Mediterranean nations. Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus and has limited but problematic ties with Egypt and Israel.
The Turkish government recently amended the rules of naval engagement in the eastern Mediterranean but has not unveiled them. It handed over the new rules to the military general, staff which then communicated them to the Turkish Navy.
“We will act in line with these rules of engagement in the event we face a situation over this issue,” Adm. Bülent Bostanoglu, the naval forces commander, told reporters Nov. 9 as he participated in the Blue Whale 2014 naval exercise. “Our naval forces elements will continue their mission of situational awareness in the region.”
Those rules of engagement will be enacted in case Turkish naval vessels confront Cypriot, Egyptian or Israeli naval assets in the Mediterranean, military officials said.
Tension between Turkey and a pact of Greece and Cyprus increased recently after the Cypriot government issued licenses for oil and natural gas exploration in its claimed economic exclusive zones in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey strongly criticized the move, saying it was a clear breach of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots’ rights and sent a seismic exploration vessel to the region for its own drilling purposes and one warship for the surveillance of foreign platform vessels being used for oil exploration.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic Turkish and Greek lines since 1974. The dispute over hydrocarbon drilling off the Cypriot coast has disrupted the most recent negotiations for the island’s reunification.