Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stirred up the Middle East further Tuesday, halting trade with Israel while Turkey threatens to attack Cyprus if it lets Noble Energy drill for gas. Israeli businessman Yitzchak Tshuva has options to license some of the gas.
Ignoring pleas from the United States to calm down after a United Nations report stated that Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza is legal, Erdogan warned he will send more ships to patrol in the Mediterranean Sea and still is considering a visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza.
He said Turkey is "totally suspending" defense industry ties with Israel, two days after recalling its ambassador and reducing diplomatic ties to a third-tier level.
The threat to attack Cyprus, reported by Globes, concerns “Block 12,” where the American-based Noble Energy firm plans to explore for gas. It is located north of the Israeli oil and gas field Leviathan, which Hizbullah has warned belongs to Lebanon.
Both gas fields are thought to contain huge gas reserves, with the Leviathan field already having been determined to be the largest natural gas discovery in the world in recent years.
Last week, Turkey’s Minister to the European Union, Ag'mn Bag'is, said the drilling, planned to begin October 1, "is precisely the reason our warships are in the area. That is why we built our army and trained our soldiers. It is illegal to explore waters that do not belong to them."
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and controls more than one-third of the island, although the international community does not recognize its sovereignty.
Last December, Turkey was furious at an agreement signed between Cyprus and Israel that determined borders for exclusive trade zones.