Turkey Seismic exploration vessel - Reuters - September 2011
Seismic exploration vessel Piri Reis leaves from Urla port in the Aegean city of Izmir, western Turkey, September 23, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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Turkey is set to begin natural gas exploration in the coming days in the Eastern Mediterranean, north of Cyprus. According to reports in the Turkish media, the exploration will be accompanied by a fleet of Turkish war ships and submarines.

Turkey’s war planes will also be stationed in the northern part of the island, which is under Turkish control. It is still unclear whether the exploration will take place in the areas where Israel and Cyprus divided exploration rights in an agreement signed last year. Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused both Israel and Cyprus of “oil madness”.

As it happens, the conflict over Mediterranean oil allows Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to continue his diplomatic confrontation on two fronts: one with Israel, and one with Cyprus. Turkey is the only county that recognizes the pro-Turkish regime in North Cyprus, and claims that the pro-Greek government in the southern part of the island does not have the authority to sign deals with Israel.

The threats to use military, naval, and air power to strengthen the exploration come on the heels of Erdogan’s threats earlier this month to accompany future Gaza flotillas with war ships. According to Israel’s defense establishment, Erdogan is using empty threats in order to bolster his relations with the Arab world, and that Turkey has no intention of entering into a military confrontation with Israel.

Another reason that is causing Turkey to step up its threats against Greek-controlled Cyprus is the fact that in another nine months, it is expected to assume the EU rotating presidency. Turkey considers the move a slap in the face from the EU, which refused to allow Turkey to join.

A confrontation over oil rights in the Mediterranean will inevitably and directly involve the United States, as its company, Noble Energy, conducts explorations on behalf of Israel and Cyprus.