Turkey is going to establish naval and air bases in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in order to guarantee its security in the Eastern Mediterranean, Demirören News Agency reported yesterday.
The move follows a visit to Northern Cyprus by a team from the Turkish Navy, which held talks with diplomatic and military officials in the north of the island before returning to Ankara. It was then agreed that due to Turkey's drilling operations in the region it is necessary to strengthen its presence, particularly with regard to supplying and guaranteeing the safety of Turkish warships.
The joint decision by the governments of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus comes amid controversy over the discovery and exploitation of vast natural gas reserves off the shores of the island. Earlier this month, Greece, the Republic of Cyprus and Israel struck a deal in which they are to build a pipeline harnessing the reserves of natural gas off the south coast. The EastMed pipeline, which is predicted to produce a profit of $9 billion over eighteen years, will supply gas from the region to countries in Europe.
Turkey has expressed its displeasure at being excluded from such a deal in its backyard, and has sent its own drilling vessels to the waters off the east coast of Cyprus to explore for further reserves of natural gas.
Ankara has also reportedly authorised the carrying out of work to establish a sea port either in Famagusta or Iskele, both of which are on the far eastern side of Cyprus. The proposed building of a port and naval base in the Famagusta district comes at the same time as the announcement by the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Ersin Tatar, that he is going to open up the "ghost city" of Maraş. The city has been closed off by the government since 1974 due to a UN Security Council Resolution issued after Turkey's invasion of northern Cyprus. Maraş has been uninhabited for 45 years, is now set to undergo a $10 billion renovation process in order to accommodate the setting up of the port.
These developments, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a parliamentary assembly meeting today, are happening in order to "strengthen the welfare and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus by sharing resources around Cyprus and the Mediterranean. There's only one thing we want; ensuring the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people."