Turkey's military is prepared to reinvade Cyprus “if needed for the lives and security of Turkish Cypriots,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
“The entire world is watching our determination. No one should doubt that the heroic Turkish army, which sees [Northern] Cyprus as its homeland, will not hesitate to take the same step it took 45 years ago if needed for the lives and security of the Turkish Cypriots,” state-run Anadolu News Agency quoted Erdogan as saying.
Erdogan issued the statement as the nation marks the 45th anniversary of Turkey's deeply controversial invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974, long condemned by the bulk of UN member countries.
But the provocative remarks come amidst what EU-member Cyprus has dubbed a "second invasion" involving illegal Turkish oil and gas drilling, accompanied by Turkish warships, F-16s, and drones to ensure "protection" of its drilling vessels.
The EU agreed on Monday to bring financial and political sanctions against Turkey after repeat warnings of the past weeks over Ankara deploying multiple offshore drilling vessels into international recognized Cypriot waters.
The European Union announced Monday from Brussels:
"Today, we will adopt a number of measures against Turkey — less money, fewer loans through the European Investment Bank, freeze of aviation agreement talks. Naturally, other sanctions are possible."
The most serious measure will involve a cut of 145.8 million euros ($164 million) in European funds allocated to Turkey for 2020, according to a prior AFP report.
Erdogan appeared to directly address the crisis in his Saturday statement:
"Those who think the wealth of the island and the region only belongs to them will face the determination of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots."
...Indicating an unwillingness to back down on Turkey's oil and gas exploration claims inside Greek Cyprus' exclusive economic zone.
"Those who dream of changing the fact that Turkish Cypriots are an integral part of the Turkish nation will soon realize that it is in vain," Erdogan added.
Turkey has laid claim to a waters extending a whopping 200 miles from its coast, brazenly asserting ownership over a swathe of the Mediterranean that even cuts into Greece's exclusive economic zone. So far Ankara has responded to EU sanctions by reaffirming its rights to waters of all parts of Cyprus' coast.
Should the Turkish military attempt to enforce its drilling claims and run up against Cypriot and Greek vessels, it could spark a deadly encounter which would force the EU and NATO to finally weigh in more forcefully.
And just on the heels of the Russian S-400 standoff with Washington, the next major Turkish showdown with the West looks to be fast heating up in the eastern Mediterranean.