Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Turkey's Erdogan calls Israel's offshore gas drilling 'madness' -- Is a conflict coming?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described offshore gas drilling by estranged ally Israel and Cyprus as "madness" on Wednesday, raising the stakes in a confrontation over potentially huge deposits in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The quarrel over gas has escalated in recent weeks, just as relations between Israel and Turkey abruptly broke down over Israel's refusal to apologize for its raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last year in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists died.

Israel and the Greek-speaking government of Cyprus are exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, and Israel has laid claim to a massive deepwater gas field discovered in 2009.

Turkey, increasingly assertive in the region under Erdogan, disputes Israeli and Cypriot offshore territorial claims and says Cyprus should not exploit resources until it resolves a stand-off with its breakaway Turkish-speaking north.

Long one of Israel's few friends in the Middle East, Turkey downgraded diplomatic and trade ties with Israel this month after Israel refused to apologize for the May 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.

"The Greek Cypriot administration and Israel are engaging in oil exploration madness in the Mediterranean," Turkish state news agency Anatolian quoted Erdogan as telling Turkish journalists in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting.

"Actually, the Greek Cypriot administration's drilling activity is nothing but sabotage of the negotiation process between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots," he added. more