Don’t Dig Campaign 26 January Press Conference - Full Text Of The Statements
Onur Yılmaz - Turkey
Dear press workers and our peoples thirsting for peace and tranquility in our region,
We are going through an extraordinary historical period in every respect. The ground is boiling like hot magma under the ground. The world was perhaps never a good place for people who were oppressed and forced to live under exploitation, but the crises one after another caused by the global capitalist system, which for quite a while now seemed to be racing to take our lives, never stopped.
Perhaps the most acute and decisive of all these economic, political, ideological, social deep crises, whose causes and consequences are intertwined, is the global ecological collapse. The one that is also the main cause of the current coronavirus pandemic, which has radically changed our daily life practices. Working people, who lost their livelihoods, housing conditions, in short, their means of survival, experience the consequences of this ecological collapse with the destruction of ecosystems and the climate crisis. Storms and floods of unprecedented intensity co-occur with drought, where even our drinking water is at risk. Record-breaking seasonal temperatures and the trees that bloom in January leave a scary feeling instead of making us smile. Forced to hit the road as the fragile economies and ecosystems, especially in poor countries, are ruined by ecological collapse and the climate crisis, hundreds of thousands of people are dying in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
We, as all life advocates who do not turn a blind eye to the consequences of this destruction, struggle to oppose all kinds of projects of states and corporations that will exacerbate the ecological collapse and the climate crisis, and withstand the exploitation of labor throughout the operations of these projects. And this time, we untied our voices against the fossil gas in the Black Sea, which the Turkish state announced as “a miracle” last August, the fossil fuel exploration activities of all countries and the ongoing pipeline project EastMed with the campaign we announced on September 25th: For climate justice and for peace, we raise our demand "Don't Dig!" the fossil fuels. Our call found support even beyond Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, and many structure and organization waging ecological struggle became part of the campaign, so we have established a network that brings us together side by side here today.
25 years ago today, the peoples of Turkey and Greece on both sides of Aegean and the two peoples living in Cyprus, had tried to be confronted with yet another military tension so-called the Kardak/Imia crisis. However, neither that day nor at any time will be able to succeed, those racists and warmongers who try to make people hostile to each other. Our destinies are common as people living in the same geography. There are no country borders in nature, no exclusive economic zones. The soon-to-be-extinct species, the destroyed sea floor, the warming air, the polluted water, the soils that now yields less crops require an international struggle against these limitless ecocide projects.
While the US, EU, Russia, China and other international powers have carried their worldwide struggle for division of land and resources to the Mediterranean, both by directly involving and through armament and economic relations with the countries of the region; on the one hand, the EU accepts the Green Deal, a green-washing program full of fake mitigation plans and on the other hand, continues to allocate resources to the fossil fuel pipeline projects such as the EastMed. The Don’tDig campaign defends the rights of nature and the society that is a part of nature, rejecting this international imperialist patronage and politics that operate according to the rules of capital.
Just yesterday, the foreign ministers of the Turkish and Greek states met again for the first time after 2016 in the intermittent exploratory talks that started after the 1996 Kardak/Imia crisis. And once again we have seen that this political approach under the guise of "national interest", which, when appropriate, incites hostility among peoples, has nothing to give us. There comes out nothing but more harm to the nature out of these meetings whether they agree or disagree.
Until now, the economic resources obtained by producing fossil fuels have never been used for the common welfare of the people in no country, it has filled the pockets of a handful of capitalists. This is also the case with gas and oil in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Those who condemn us to unemployment and hunger by putting our countries into deep economic bottlenecks are those who carry out a war policy over gas and oil. That is why we make our call to all the people we invite to fight with us. Come, all together for peace, for climate justice, let us impose our demand “Don’t Dig!” on them. Become a signatory to the campaign, disseminate it, join the signatory organizations to do more, carry our voices to the streets.
We will overcome the effects of the ecological collapse and the climate crisis hand in hand with our Greek and Cypriot friends, with whom we made this press release today, and we will heal our wounds together, as in the earthquake we experienced in October. And we will carry this struggle beyond words and put it into practice with permanent structures and the campaigns we conduct.
We repeat once again: “Don’t Dig the fossil fuels, leave them underground!”
Emmanuela Terzopoulou - Greece
We are here with our brothers and sisters from Turkey and Cyprus because we consider that Mediterranean and Aegean Sea are not dividing us but uniting us. We are here to prevent a crime is attempted in Eastern Mediterranean.
Whether our governments dispatch war frigates to the Mediterranean or they sit at the negotiating table, one thing is certain: Their competition for control of oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean remains a dangerous threat to peace and the environment.
There is an unprecedented outbreak of hypocrisy!
While both our countries participate in international forums relating to the CO2 emissions reduction for climate change control;
While they promote industrial-scale RES (Renewable Energy Sources) everywhere, from the smallest islet to trackless mountains, thus destroying the already fragile ecosystems;
And, while all these are presented to us as “Green” policies for protecting the climate;
It is the same countries that:
Strive to get a share of the profits from the world’s largest offshore natural gas pipeline, the so-called EastMed;
They almost caused a military conflict for the delimitation of the EEZ, namely for the exploitation of the hydrocarbon reserves of the eastern Mediterranean!
They are trying to convince us that the exploitation of known or unknown hydrocarbon reserves will bring prosperity to the peoples of the Mediterranean that the exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves is in the “national” interest of each country.
They are lying! The oil routes have not brought prosperity to the peoples of any oil-producing country. On the contrary, they have led to serious environmental damages, corruption and authoritarian regimes.
Mediterranean peoples have nothing to gain from hydrocarbon extraction. Our interest is in a peaceful coexistence in a clean planet, in the protection of the environment, in the respect of human’s as well as every living creature’s rights, in the solidarity and breaking down of the nationalist walls that they try to build in order to divide us, in the defense of peace.
Because the plunder of natural resources and the ecological disaster undermine the survival of all species living on Earth including humans.
The last 6 years have been recorded as the hottest in history. The consequences of exploiting nature for profit are: the rising global temperature and melting ice, the rising sea level and threat of coastal areas, the risk of releasing new - trapped in the ice - viruses, the desertification, the floods and fires, the disappearance of forests and ecosystems, the biodiversity loss, the air and water pollution together with development of new diseases, the climate migration.
The environmental degradation that shall be caused by the construction of EastMed and the oil and gas extractions in the Mediterranean will not be incalculable only for the seas, coasts and marine and coastal biodiversity. It will also effect traditional employment sectors of the Mediterranean, as tourism, fishery, etc.
Danger turns into a nightmare when all this happens in a seismic area like ours.
It is true that there are ones who will prosper from the exploitation of the reserves, including the multinational oil companies. The neoliberal capitalistic model does not let any doubt that there will not be the peoples but the multinational oil corporations, the warfare industry and the individual interests served by the large powers as well as the smaller regional powers. It is them who see people and nature as a source of profit whether gained a cold-war atmosphere or by actual military interventions.
In Greece, during time of supposed peace, the 2021 state budget for military equipment purposed for the acquisition of Rafale and F35 fighting aircrafts, stipulates a rise to 5.4 billion compared to 3.8 billion for 2020 which is a 30 % rise. This rise takes place at the expense of the public health system budget that is getting reduced by 16 % during a pandemic!!!
The biggest nightmare though is the probability of a war between our countries that threatens to ignite an unpredictable situation throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The interference of larger powers in the conflict (EU,USA, Russia, etc.) together with some smaller regional powers (Israel, Libya, Egypt, UAE, etc.) is terrifying. Either with their actual intervention in military exercises, through selling military equipment or with the “diplomatic intermediation”, they all strive to get a part of the share or some control on the eastern Mediterranean.
The pretence of the continuous rise of energy needs does not concern people who can no longer pay for the ever-rising price of energy. It concerns the big “grey” or allegedly “green” investors and their capital that waste energy in production for profit and not for human needs, disregarding the environmental consequences.
We, the environmental movements and our fellow citizens of Turkey, Cyprus and Greece, have no reserves to share. On the contrary, we all anguish over and fight to save the environment and strengthen the peace between us.
That is why we unite our voices to prevent the nightmare of hydrocarbon extractions and a war in the Eastern Mediterranean.
That is why we call every organisation and sensitised citizen that shares the same agonies to unite their power with us.
That is why we insist:
Leave the hydrocarbons under ground!
Stop the environmental destruction and the war preparations!
Myrto Skouroupathi – Cyprus
Since Cyprus is an energy-isolated island, fossil gas is theoretically presented as a way to break our dependence on the more polluting heavy oil imports and thus reduce our emissions at the same time.
In theory, it is more polluting because governments are very easily choosing to calculate fossil gas emissions only during combustion. In fact, more than 5% of the gas may leak during extraction and transportation. Leaking methane is of course a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Therefore, natural gas does not provide any environmental benefits throughout its life cycle.
This does not deter Mr. Anastadiades from announcing that our country will play a leading role in climate change research in the Eastern Mediterranean region. After all, it is known that our region will experience the effects of climate change much more intensely than the global average and therefore it is a “hot spot”. Moreover, it endorses and promotes the 2030 Climate Plan, which is based on fossil gas but also fails to achieve conservative targets for emission reduction according to science.
In addition to climate change, the extraction of fossil gas in Cyprus puts the natural environment in great danger. The main landing plots are located in the same area with the Eratosthenis sea mountain. This is the Fishing Restricted Area and is a priority place for the Mediterranean Protected Areas of Special Importance (SPAMI) list. Of course, we cannot know the real effects of fossil fuel extraction because the Strategic Environmental Assessment is incomplete, conducted without public opinion, and its sole purpose is to quickly approve mining permits. None of the Environmental Impact Assessments made are made public on the pretext of national security. Hiding environmental effects in this way is against the "right to information" protected internationally according to the Aarhus Convention.
It will be important to note that all land infrastructure for fossil gas will already be built in the environmentally-laden Vasilikos area. The energy center will be built next to Mari, a historically Turkish Cypriot village inhabited by displaced Greek Cypriots today. This decision is very similar to racist environmental practices.
Finally, the livelihoods of the island's thousands of residents who are dependent on tourism and fishing are constantly threatened by a potential accident, which could also irreparably damage the entire marine ecosystem of the Mediterranean. This is acknowledged by the Ministry of Environment, which mentions that the possibility of an accident at one of the 200 platforms in the Mediterranean is a major threat to the fragile ecosystem and economy of the Mediterranean.
Obviously, the negative effects of the extraction of hydrocarbons outweigh the potential benefits to the environment and quality of life of all residents on the island. At the same time, the conflicting interests of the ruling elites in the region are an issue that sows conflict and anger. This is why, hydrocarbon removal and the war against Cyprus, Turkey and Greece have launched this campaign together.
Murat Kanatlı – Cyprus
The current situation in Cyprus has emerged first with the anti-colonial armed movement in 1955, then the inter-communal armed conflict, the armed conflicts within the communities, and the final stage being the military coup with the support of a guarantor state, and a de-facto military operation by another guarantor state. There is ceasefire on the island since August 1974, which however is not based on an agreement. Alongside with the above, the island is a geography with the most armed units per square meter.
In addition, inter-communal negotiations have been going on for a very long time. With the discovery of new natural gas deposits, some people claim that the solution process can be financed with the income to be obtained. Gas for peace is a complete illusion… The process of natural gas exploration increases military tension, the increasing tension also increases nationalism and reduces inter-communal trust. Therefore, along with many other reasons, natural gas exploration must be stopped.
This is not a slogan or an empty claim based on simple concerns.
Beginning with the tender process for exploration permits in parcels, the military tension between the parties began to increase. Turkey has upgraded its military presence in the northern part of the island, has sent drones and UAVs, and has transferred warships to the region. It is anyway difficult to guess how fragile the situation is, as there is no direct ceasefire agreement between the parties on the island.
In 2018, Turkey with her warships, interfered and made the Italian company move away from the region; after the war ships and research vessels continued to approach each other in a dangerous manner that the threat is not only a possibility, but reaching a point of close contact.
The tension on the island has reached such a serious level that the Greek Cypriots officers who were called for reserve service in the summer of 2020 were also notified with documents that they could be called to arms at any time. The possibility for war on the island has also risen to maximum level.
The political process which Turkey has already entered and considering the Greek Cypriot leadership's links with capital based on interest and corruption, it can be clearly understood that this problem is too deep to be overcome by an agreement. Every new natural gas exploration activity is driving us towards greater military tension. This is followed by militarist propaganda and naturally an increase in nationalism. Hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean have brought the island to the brink of war and continue to distance the communities living on the island from each other by preparing the ground for the rise of nationalism.
The issue is not only about the island being dragged into a military disaster.
The Greek Cypriot leadership used these ongoing tensions as an excuse and signed new military agreements, starting with France, allowing many countries to keep new weapons on the island. This means an increase in the military presence on the island. Most recently, the Republic of Cyprus signed military agreements with the United Arab Emirates in 2021, with France in August 2020, and with Israel and Greece in November 2020. In February 2015, the Republic of Cyprus signed an agreement with Russia, allowing Russian warships to use her ports. Also, last year, the United States signed agreements with the Republic of Cyprus for non-lethal military weapons and training. Apart from all these agreements, and also considering what Turkey has sent to the island, with up to now nearly 15 years’ long natural gas explorations, the already large military units on the island have multiplied.
The issue is not only about the island. Some time ago, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece with the support of other EU countries, formed a military bloc, with the excuse of the EastMed Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline. Later, this partnership turned into the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. It can easily be said that such a structure’s military activities will further disrupt the unstable situation of the region.
The militarization of the Eastern Mediterranean will not bring peace to the region. For this reason, natural gas explorations should be opposed to, in order to have regional peace and demilitarization.
Photos from the meeting
Videos of the statements and the whole meeting