Greek Cyprus urges Turkey to end gas standoff, resume talks
NICOSIA – Agence France-Presse
Greek Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades urged Turkey on Feb. 21 to lift its blockade of offshore gas exploration that would benefit both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots if the island is reunited.
“The rhetoric by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots is unjustified and unfounded, and it does not serve the best interests of the Cypriot people... The planning of the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus in the field of energy will proceed,” Anastasiades said in a statement.
“I publicly call on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community to immediately respond to my call to return to the negotiating table, provided this is preceded by the termination of the violation of the sovereign rights” of Greek Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he said.
Anastasiades said the island’s untapped energy riches belonged to the state and would be shared with the Turkish Cypriots once the island was reunified.
“Our goal is to fully explore Cyprus’s hydrocarbon potential, in the best terms possible, so as to maximize the benefits for all the people of Cyprus,” he said.
Greek Cyprus is embroiled in a standoff with Turkish warships blocking an Italian drillship from exploring for gas in the divided island’s politically sensitive waters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” in the Mediterranean after Turkey’s warships blocked the Italian vessel.
The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean risks further complicates stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus following the collapse of U.N.-brokered peace talks last year.
Italy’s energy giant ENI said its ship had been ordered to stop by Turkish ships earlier this month over “military activities in the destination area” as it was on course to start exploring in block 3 of EEZ.