ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News)–The Israeli ambassador to Ankara visited Turkey’s environment minister Wednesday to express Israel’s gratitude for Turkey’s assistance during a recent fire, following Ankara’s angry response to an oil exploration deal made between Israel and Greek Cyprus.
Sources told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review the Israel-Greek Cyprus deal did not appear on the agenda of the meeting between Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Gaby Levy and Turkish Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu. The visit was simply a gesture to express Israel’s thanks to the Turkish government after it sent two firefighting planes to help contain a serious forest fire that broke out on Mount Carmel, in the north of Israel.
While the fire diplomacy prompted the two countries’ diplomats to engage in fence-mending talks to normalize their relationship which was strained by an Israeli commando raid of a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla on May 31, the agreement Israel signed with Greek Cyprus last Friday drew adverse reactions from Turkey.
In a written statement released Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the signing of the deal as an “unfortunate development” and said it is “null and void” because it disregards the rights and jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots.
The deal delineates an exclusive economic zone between Israel and Greek Cyprus and will allow both countries to move ahead in the search for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, as part of continuing Greek Cypriot efforts to find undersea oil and gas deposits.
Last week, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu summoned the Israeli ambassador to the ministry to convey Turkey’s displeasure over the matter.
“These kinds of agreements are directly linked to the sovereignty issue which is one of the indispensable components of the ongoing comprehensive settlement negotiations,” the ministry said in statement, referring to talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders aimed at reunifying the island.
“The Greek Cypriot administration does not represent in law or in fact the Turkish Cypriots and Cyprus as a whole. Therefore, agreements signed by the Greek Cypriots with countries of the region are null and void for Turkey,” it added.
Israel is not the first country to sign such a deal. Greek Cyprus has already concluded similar agreements with Egypt and Lebanon, with both deals drawing adverse reactions from Turkey, which pressed the Arab nations to put them on hold.
“It is our earnest expectation from the international community and especially from the countries of the region that all would avoid supporting Greek Cypriots’ unilateral activities that would have a negative impact on the comprehensive settlement negotiations,” said the ministry.
“Turkey, along with the TRNC [Turkish Cyrpus], will continue its efforts, through diplomatic and political channels, in order to protect the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots,” it added.
In an interview with the Agence-France Presse, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau He brushed aside Turkish criticism, saying: “The agreement with Cyprus clearly defines our rights in the Mediterranean.”