Erdogan Stages Reach for Mediterranean Oil Supply, Provoking Cyprus/EU Officials

Andreas Manoli/EPA

Andreas Manoli/EPA


ANKARA - Reports say a Turkish driller ship came as close as 51 nautical miles off Cyprus’ southwest coast have drawn criticism from both the government of Cyprus and European Union officials. Cyprus has been partitioned since a Turkish invasion in 1974, leading to a Turkish occupation of the island’s northern area recognized only by the Republic of Turkey. Access to oil resources in eastern Mediterranean waters remains a point of contention between the Turkish and Cypriot governments. August’s recent agreement between Israel, the U.S., and Cyprus last fall drew new lines against Erdogan’s clearly articulated ambitions to rebuild the Ottoman Empire. 

Erdogan publicly outlined his regional and territorial ambitions several years ago, with his sights set on reclaiming ground lost to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. These nautical provocations related to the Mediterranean oil bed point to his broader goals to restore the fallen Caliphate, while claiming the entire island of Cyprus—which, though small, stands as a strategic point of access and resource for the eastern Mediterranean Basin.

Photograph: Andreas Manoli/EPA