Turkish Cypriot leader warns Greek Cyprus over hydrocarbon exploration before talks restart

Turkish Cypriot leader warns Greek Cyprus over hydrocarbon exploration before talks restart

Turkish Cypriot leader warns Greek Cyprus over hydrocarbon exploration before talks restart Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has warned Greek Cyprus ahead of a resumption of peace talks that if the natural resources drilling off the island starts before an agreement on the island then there will be new tensions, which he does not favor.

“If [exploring] drillings [of hydrocarbon resources] start before a solution [on the island] is found then there might be new tensions and conflicts instead of cooperation,” said Akıncı on April 9 at a local asparagus festival, just two days before the stalled peace talks over the eastern Mediterranean island is set to resume. 

“We do not want new tensions and areas of conflicts; we want to benefit from cooperation and wealth jointly. And for that there needs to be a solution,” he added. 

The Greek Cypriot administration signed new contracts with Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum on April 5, and ENI and Total a day later for licenses to carry out hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation off Cyprus. The companies are expected to start their explorations before the end of this year. 

Commenting on the continuation of the peace talks set to begin on April 11 in Nicosia under the auspices of the United Nations, Akıncı urged for reciprocity, underlining their “good will” for the fresh round of unification talks. 

“Only if we walk together will this way take us to a solution,” Akıncı said. 

“No one should expect us to take one-sided steps on the new negotiation process,” he said. 

U.N.-backed negotiations aimed at reuniting the eastern Mediterranean island came to a standstill in February in a row over Greek Cypriot schools marking the anniversary of the 1950 referendum supporting “Enosis,” or union with Greece.

The Greek Cypriot parliament overturned the law that called for the celebration of the 1950 referendum, the main cause that led to a breakdown in talks, on April 7. 

The Turkish Cypriot leader told his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades and U.N. envoy for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide that the talks could restart after the bill was overturned.

The U.N. will have key responsibilities, Akıncı said, adding that the U.N. officials “can develop a helping understanding by staying neutral and pursuing equality.” 

He added that “a very serious shuttle diplomacy should be carried out between the two sides and among the three guarantor countries,” namely Turkey, Greece, and Britain. 

“We do not want arbitration or a written proposal. We want a well-thought proposal that would build bridges,” Akıncı said. 

The reunification talks - brokered by Eide - were launched in May 2015 to discuss a permanent settlement for the divided Mediterranean island. 

Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after an Enosis-inspired 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish citizens, and Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power.

Akıncı said it was possible to put a framework forth for the peace talk in April and May, adding that it would be easier to fill the blanks after a framework is set.