Cyprus and Israel vs. Turkey: Round One

Most of the world has been paying attention to the to the Israeli-Lebanese spat over the Leviathan and Tamar oil wells in the Mediterranean, Cyprus and Turkey have been squabbling over a similar issue and Cyprus has turned to Israel for support.

Recently, Cyprus began looking for oil offshore thanks to the Israeli discovery of two large oil fields in the Mediterranean. However, Turkey threatened Cyprus over such actions, with Turkish Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying they would show the “necessary response” if the country dares to follow through. Cyprus and Turkey have been locked in a bitter dispute over who owns the northern region of Cyprus, with the Ankara government claiming the region as theirs and repeatedly threatening military action.

Since the spat began a few months ago, both the US and Russia have supported the Cypriot position, citing international law. This Wednesday, Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis arrived in Israel looking for support from the Israeli government. Her request was granted and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued statements supporting Cyprus and encouraging oil exploration.

During the two-day visit, Marcoullis discussed the possibility of Israeli-Cypriot cooperation in regards to energy, specifically oil and gas. Following the meeting, Marcoullis said that Cyprus would continue oil exploration, regardless of what Ankara says and threatens to do. The Noble Energy Corporation will begin drilling exploration in October.

Cyprus’ move to ask for Israeli support was surprising one, considering the country’s past as being extremely critical of Israel in the UN. Many speculate that the move was linked to the total deterioration of Israeli-Turkish ties in the wake of the 2010 Flotilla. However, both Israel and Cyprus denies those rumors, saying that it was linked to Cyprus’ entrance to the EU in 2004 and Israel’s desire to have economic ties with the EU.

Following the visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to visit Cyprus and is the first time an Israeli delegation has been officially invited to visit the country and plans to do so in the near future.