Turkey will proceed with drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus if the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government does not agree on a cooperation plan proposed by the Turkish Cypriot authorities, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Sunday.
Speaking to the daily Cyprus Post based in the Turkish Cypriot side, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would continue its drilling activities “with determination and without change” in waters where the Turkish Cypriot authorities have granted license to Turkish Petroleum (TP) to work, until the Greek Cypriot government accepts the proposals put forward by Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci on Saturday.
Akinci’s reissued proposal urges conflicting parties to establish a joint committee to end the row over the offshore drilling.
Cavusoglu defined Akinci’s proposal as “timely” and “well-advised.”
On Sunday, Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades officially received the proposal and requested a meeting with political party leaders on July 16 to inform them about the proposal.
The island has been split in two since 1974 between internationally recognized the Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which only Turkey recognises.
The friction stems from overlapping claims to regional waters by Turkey and Cyprus. Ankara says the waters around Cyprus lie on its own continental shelf and therefore, Nicosia cannot make any maritime zones-related deal on behalf of the whole island, claiming shares in the energy reserves.
Having formed a cooperation bloc with Greece, Israel, and Egypt to drill for natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Republic of Cyprus says decisions on hydrocarbons are its sovereign right and any proceeds from gas drilling will be shared fairly after a peace deal is established.
The dispute arose after Turkey’s first drilling ship, the Fatih, anchored in early May and started drilling in June in waters claimed both by Cyprus and by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). Later this week, a second ship, the Yavuz, dropped anchor off Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus said Turkey’s drilling operations are contrary to international law and initiated legal proceedings against personnel of the state-run Turkey Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and its partnering three companies for encroaching on the island’s continental shelf.
After repeated warnings, the European Union (EU) last week prepared a draft statement which envisages restraining contacts and funding for Turkey in response to its “illegal” drilling. The EU foreign ministers are expected to issue the statement this week.
The Turkish foreign ministry rejected Greek and the EU claims that Turkey’s drilling for gas and oil exploration off Cyprus is illegal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the bloc, saying Turkey “cannot view positively those who speak, make a noise.”
“Now the EU comes forward and says what? It will impose sanctions. Do whatever your sanction is. Sorry, you have not defended the rights of Turks in northern Cyprus. You have not followed through on your promises,” Erdogan told Haberturk news channel on Sunday.