Greece tells Turkey to stop challenging Greek Cyprus natural gas efforts

Greece tells Turkey to stop challenging Greek Cyprus natural gas efforts

NICOSIA - Reuters
Greece tells Turkey to stop challenging Greek Cyprus natural gas efforts

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (R) shakes hands with Greek Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace as following a meeting in Nicosia. AP Photo

Greece urged NATO partner Turkey on Nov. 7 to stop "harassing" Greek Cyprus while it looks to exploit offshore natural gas fields, wading into a dispute that has complicated peace efforts on the island.

Greek Cyprus, which is a member of the European Union, is keen to develop gas reserves to the south of the Mediterranean island.

Turkey does not recognise Greek Cyprus and has reportedly dispatched a ship to collect seismic data in the disputed waters - a precursor for possible gas exploration.

The row prompted Greek Cypriots to suspend peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots last month. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he fully supported the decision, accusing Turkey of trying to provoke Cyprus.

"Provocations cannot be ignored, nor can they be rewarded," he said during a visit to Nicosia. "We hope Turkey will reconsider, to allow talks to resume."

Greek Cypriot authorities say a Turkish research vessel, the Barbaros, has been sailing in waters close to exploration sites that Cyprus has already licensed to Italy's ENI, France's Total and U.S. Noble Energy.

Efforts to resolve the island's decades-old partition has come into sharper focus following the discovery of huge quantities of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean.

The island reported its first find in 2011, with a reservoir containing an estimated 5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. It borders on waters Greek Cyprus shares with Israel, which has recorded some of the world's biggest finds in the past decade.

Turkey, which recognizes north Cyprus, disputes Nicosia's rights to search for gas.

Greek Cypriots, who run Cyprus's internationally recognised government, say Turkish Cypriots can share potential benefits, but only when there is a peace deal.

"Hydrocarbons in Cyprus's exclusive economic zone belong to the Republic of Cyprus, and, post-settlement, any revenue from exploitation will benefit all of Cyprus's legal residents," Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said.

Samaras and Anastasiades were due to travel to Egypt for a meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Nov. 8. Talks were to focus on energy cooperation, Cypriot officials said.