Mersin, Turkey (PortSEurope) September 25, 2020 – The General Secretary of Mersin Chamber of Shipping, Mesut Öztürk, has called for investment in the small, but key, port of Taşucu. The port is located on Turkey’s Mediterranean Sea coastline, nearly 90 km west of Mersin. Its facilities are used for supporting Turkey’s military and research activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The last year has seen Ankara
showing increasing interest in establishing itself as a regional power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Disputed drilling activities and maritime jurisdiction, together with an agreement with one of the Libyan civil war factions (UN-endorsed Libyan government fighting renegade general Khalifa Haftat), has led to high levels of tension with Greece and Cyprus, which has drawn in the European Union (EU) and particularly France. Ankara is also involved in the Syrian conflict. Additionally, Turkey considers itself excluded from the EastMed Gas Forum. Members include Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Italy, and the organisation aims to establish the region as a major energy hub. Öztürk said that Taşucu Port has proven its worth over the last 50 years both in the crises in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the projects and commercial activities carried out. Additionally, he claimed that the investments would increase the efficiency of the port, which has strategic importance in terms of energy resources, security and maritime transport, in order to control Turkey’s regional security and contribute more to the economy. He also said that Taşucu Port, the closest point to Cyprus Island from Turkey, was used as a military base by Turkish troops during the Cyprus crisis in 1974. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus, code-named by Ankara as Operation Atilla, was a Turkish military invasion of Cyprus. It was launched on July 20, 1974, following the Cypriot coup d’état on July 15, 1974. The coup had been ordered by the then ruling military Junta in Greece. Tasucu Port is surrounded by two breakwaters. The port entrance mouth between the breakwaters is 240 meters. The sea area inside the breakwaters has a 400-meter diameter, a 10-meter-deep manoeuvring circle and six docks. The pier is 610 meters long. The docks 1, 2 and 3 are 280 meters long, 6 meters deep and are used as cruise ship docks. In a separate, but not unrelated issue, last month Ankara also proposed a new port facility in Northern Cyprus. Turkey seeks a port to provide support services for its disputed drilling activities, and this will require investment in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The Turkish newspaper Deniz Haber reported that studies are underway with implementation to follow soon. It is considering Famagusta or Iskele as possible locations. Both ports are located in the TRNC which is only recognised by Turkey. It was created in 1983 following a long-standing dispute with Greece. Such developments could have a wider role in the Ankara government’s regional policy. Tensions between Europe and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean is a serious reason for concern. Recent incidents between French, Greek, and Turkish naval vessels, as well as increased military deployments, have highlighted the risk of military confrontation between NATO members. Despite mediation initiatives, Ankara has continued gas exploration activities in Cypriot (EU) waters, while Brussels divisions on the way it should respond to the crisis, have become ever more apparent. Italy is also involved in the East Mediterranean conundrum, not least because it was the Italian energy giant Eni that discovered the first massive gas field there in August 2015. Eni is also the lead operator in Cyprus’s gas development and was behind a plan to pool the gas from Cypriot, Egyptian and Israeli fields and use Egypt’s liquefaction plants to cost-effectively market the region’s gas to Europe as liquified natural gas (LNG). Turkey has directed provocative actions in the Eastern Mediterranean towards Greece since early August. It had deployed a vessel, Oruc Reis, to search for oil and gas close to Greek islands in disputed maritime territories. Turkey returned the ship to port on September 12. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2020.