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Cablegate: Cyprus: Roc Condemns Turkish Navy Harassment In

VZCZCXRO3712
RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHNC #0910/01 3231416
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 181416Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY NICOSIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9332
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1259
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NICOSIA 000910

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE, EUR/RPM, L/EUR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2018
TAGS: PREL PARM MARR ECON EPET CY TU
SUBJECT: CYPRUS: ROC CONDEMNS TURKISH NAVY HARASSMENT IN
ITS EEZ

REF: A. URBANCIC-FITZPATRICK EMAIL OF 11/14/08
B. ANKARA 1986
C. NICOSIA 813

Classified By: Ambassador Frank C. Urbancic, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (U) This cable contains an action request -- please see
Paragraph 9.

2. (C) SUMMARY: The Cypriot Foreign Ministry on November 14
summoned the Ambassador to protest Turkey's alleged same-day
harassment of two RoC-contracted vessels conducting seismic
exploration in waters Cyprus considers part of its exclusive
economic zone (EEZ). MFA Permanent Secretary Nicolas Emiliou
made no specific request of the Ambassador during the
20-minute meeting, but, "given your relationship with
Turkey," implied the USG should caution Ankara that such
behavior was unacceptable. The Ministry intended to summon
ambassadors from the other P-5 nations to conduct similar
briefings later in the evening, he added. On November 15,
the UK High Commissioner in Nicosia informed the Embassy that
London was prepared to demarche Ankara and even issue a
public statement in support of the RoC maritime claims.
Turkish and T/C contacts long have warned the GoT would take
steps to prevent RoC-sponsored mineral exploration as long as
the Cyprus Problem remained unsettled. END SUMMARY.

------------------------
You Must Come...Urgently
------------------------

3. (C) MFA Permanent Secretary (D-equivalent) Nicolas
Emiliou urgently summoned the Ambassador the afternoon of
November 14 (Ref A). In his usual somber tone, the MFA
diplomat informed that there had been an incident hours
earlier off the southwest coast of Cyprus. There, two
scientific vessels, respectively flying Panamanian and Sierra
Leonian flags, were conducting seismic research on behalf of
the Republic of Cyprus. They were approached by one or two
Turkish Navy ships and, under orders to depart the area or
otherwise face unspecified but serious consequences,
eventually retreated into RoC territorial waters. "The act
represented the culmination of provocative Turkish behavior
that had commenced when Cyprus signed a maritime delimitation
agreement with Lebanon, but was the first time Turkey
directly interfered with ongoing Cypriot activities," Emiliou
asserted. Other recent provocations included Turkish
live-fire military exercises in 2007 just outside RoC
territorial waters that endangered civilian maritime and air
traffic.

4. (C) A signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the
Sea (UNCLOS), the Republic of Cyprus had rights to resource
exploration and exploitation in its EEZ, Emiliou continued
(Ref B). The incident had occurred well within its exclusive
zone, only 27 nautical miles off the island. Turkey
maintained its own maritime claims that far exceeded those
stipulated in the UN convention, however, and was
aggressively arguing the spot in question lay on its
continental shelf. Emiliou noted that the Turkish MFA
website carried thinly-veiled threats warning Cyprus not to
survey in the area. Further, on October 8 the Turkish Navy
had warned Cyprus directly to halt exploration activities
(NFI). Turning again to the November 14 incident, the GoT
vessels had further violated international law by not
identifying themselves, the MFA diplomat alleged. One had
gotten close enough to the research ships to show its hull
number -- F927. The Turkish captain had threatened
(presumably by radio) unspecified action should the civilian
vessels not retract their equipment and depart the area,
Emiliou continued. They did, and retreated to RoC
territorial waters. (Note: DoD sources were unable to place
the Turkish naval vessel "F927" in the area on November
13/14. The frigate F240 was off the southeast coast of
Cyprus shortly beforehand, however, and conceivably could
have steamed westward to intercept the exploration vessels.)

---------------------------------
High-level Instructions to Engage
---------------------------------

5. (C) RoC President Demetris Christofias himself had
ordered the MFA to demarche UN P-5 embassies immediately upon
word of the incident, Emiliou noted. The U.S. was first in

NICOSIA 00000910 002.3 OF 002


line, owing to its close relationship with Ankara. "We know
you support Turkey's eventual European Union accession," he
continued, "and this is unacceptable behavior for an aspiring
EU state." Cyprus recently had felt pressure to "show more
understanding" on opening additional EU Acquis chapters,
specifically Energy. Yet acts of aggression like this
incident were exactly the reason the RoC was blocking -- and
would continue to oppose -- green-lighting those negotiations.

6. (C) President Christofias had no intention of allowing
the maritime incident to derail current Cyprus Problem
negotiations with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat,
Emiliou assured. Clearly, however, this type of unwarranted
aggression did not contribute to a constructive environment
for the talks. "We believe your assistance here is vital,"
Emiliou concluded.

-------------------
Others Get Involved
-------------------

7. (C) On November 15, resident UK High Commissioner Peter
Millett contacted the Ambassador to relay London's latest
thinking on the dispute. As a fellow UNCLOS signatory which
sided with Cyprus in this EEZ dispute, HMG was prepared to
demarche the Turks in Ankara, Millett relayed. It also stood
ready to voice public support for Cyprus's right to exploit
its economic zone, although it would not state specifically
where exactly the EEZ lay. Further, the UK did not
countenance Turkey's claims that all eastern Mediterranean
littoral states potentially had rights in the disputed area,
making a multilateral delimitation imperative. (Note:
separate reporting from London indicated the Brits would take
a soft line with the Turks -- watching developments and
urging restraint -- while the French, at London's behest,
would push harder. Highlighting Paris's talking points was
an admonition that Turkey's saber-rattling over maritime
resource exploitation could not come at a worse time for its
own EU accession path and the still-nascent Cyprus
negotiations.)

--------------------------
Comment and Action Request
--------------------------

8. (C) With both sides having drawn their lines in deepest
red, the November 14 incident comes as no great shock.
Turkish Cypriot "officialdom" and resident Turkish "Embassy"
contacts long have reported that any attempt by the Republic
of Cyprus to exploit mineral resources in "contested" waters
would be opposed, with force if necessary. Conversely, Greek
Cypriots vehemently contend they have law on their side,
stemming from the RoC's accession to UNCLOS, their successful
negotiation of delimitation agreements with Egypt and Lebanon
(although Beirut has yet to ratify the latter), and public
support from powers like the United States. On the related
issue of the Energy chapter of the EU Acquis, the RoC has
shown no intention to budge until Ankara backs down on
maritime exploration and exploitation.

9. (C) We recommend that the U.S. take the middle ground,
urging restraint and dialogue and cautioning the sides to
compartmentalize the dispute to prevent it from harming the
Cyprus talks. Longer-term, however, we will need Department
guidance on balancing the Republic of Cyprus's EEZ claims
with those of Turkey. A Houston-based, midsize oil and gas
firm already has won a 2007 RoC tender to explore for oil and
gas in a bloc to Cyprus's southeast, and likely will be
conducting additional seismic testing in the spring. Last
week in Las Vegas, the RoC announced the opening of bidding
for a dozen additional offshore blocs, some of which hold
great promise (Ref C). We expect the company will request
the USG to defend its commercial interests in the disputed
waters. ACTION REQUEST: 1) Language we can supply to the
RoC as the official view on the status of its EEZ, even if
the U.S. view is that some of the waters are in dispute. We
propose to deliver that language to the RoC as an aide
memoire. 2) The guidance should also take into account the
likelihood that U.S. companies may request USG assistance in
defending their commercial interests in these areas.
Urbancic

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