UPDATE: SERIOUS MONDAY CONFRONTATION
Russia has sent two nuclear-powered submarines to patrol Eastern Mediterranean waters around Cyprus and enforce the island's right to explore for undersea oil and gas in its territorial seas, according to information from Defencenet.gr, citing a Russian FM spokesman.
Alexander Lukashevich said that Russia supports Cyprus and guarantees its security if it is threatened: "Under the UN Convention on International Law, among 162 other signatory states, including Cyprus, each state has sovereign rights in its EEZ for exploring, exploiting and protecting both live and non-living natural resources, including water, the seabed and subsoil," said Lukashevich in comments made on August 19th and reported by Defencenet.gr (in Greek).
So far there has been no reaction from the foreign ministry on reports that Russian submarines will be sent to protect Cyprus from any potential military threat from Turkey. A telephone call to the foreign ministry for comment has not yet been returned. A telephone call to the press attache at the Russian Embassy in Nicosia has also not yet been returned.
The submarines are due in early September and are being interpreted as a clear warning to Turkey to stay away from Noble Energy's drilling sites in Block 12. Noble is set to start exploring for undersea gas at the beginning of October along with Israeli energy company DELEK, which has reached an agreement with Noble Energy to share in its licensing deal with Cyprus, reported Globes.co.il.
Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis just wrapped up a visit to Israel to discuss undersea hydrocarbon exploration with President of Israel Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. Israel and Cyprus' interests are closely aligned after the two countries signed an agreement delimiting their maritime borders in late 2010. The agreement also led to cooperation on undersea reserves exploitation and closer diplomatic relations, with Peres expected to visit Cyprus in the near future.
Turkey has also not yet commented on the development and is one of the countries which has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, which has been in force since 1994. There are 162 countries that have ratified the Convention, including Cyprus and Greece.
On August 9th, Turkey renewed its veiled threats towards Cyprus on the issue of undersea gas and oil exploration, with a statement from its foreign ministry saying that "the Greek Cypriot Administration does not represent in law or in fact the Turkish Cypriots and Cyprus as a whole."
Bilateral agreements between Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel are "unilateral actions" which could derail settlement talks, give rise to new conflicts and increase tensions in the region, according to the statement.
"These unlawful acts create tension in the region, compromise and prejudge the Turkish Cypriots’ existing and inherent equal rights over the natural resources of the island," says Turkey's foreign ministry.
In response, recently-appointed foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoulis said that the statements were 'posturing' from Turkey and that she would complain to the UN Security Council and the EU. And President Demetris Christofias called on the international community to end its silence on Turkey's threatening attitude to Cyprus.
Behind the scenes, the international community backs Cyprus on its oil exploration, according to US cables released by Wikileaks.ch. The government's plan to allow US companies like Noble Energy and others to drill in its Exclusive Economic Zone is well within its legal rights and Turkey does not have a "legal leg to stand on", says a 2007 confidential cable from the US Embassy in Nicosia.