Cyprus will continue to drill for Mediterranean gas despite Turkey’s attempt to force it to abandon the exploration operations, President Nicos Anastasiades has said.
The president of the Greek Cypriot republic said he was ready to engage with Turkey on reunification but that would be impossible if Ankara insisted on an end to drilling.
“Disputing sovereign rights or setting preconditions such as ‘I’m violating international law and, in return, you must give up your sovereign rights so that we can talk’ … that doesn’t demonstrate either goodwill or good faith,” said the president whose government is not recognised by Turkey.
“Just because Turkey doesn’t recognise us as a state we should renounce our statehood so that there’s dialogue,” Anastasiades added.
Drillships guarded by Turkish warships are drilling within Cyprus’s exclusive economic rights. Any discovery of gas will make it far more difficult for Turkey to back down in the dispute.
Last week, US energy representative Francis Fannon called for parties to avoid “provocative actions” that undermined regional security.
He backed Cypriot calls to extract gas in its waters and suggested profits could be shared between the two communities on the divided island under a peace deal.
Cyprus is badly in need of an extra source of income and natural gas but there have been long-running arguments between the two communities over drilling for oil and gas.
Turkey first threatened to start drilling in 2011 after Cyprus licensed the Texan producer Noble Energy to drill for gas off its southern coast.
There are also increasing tensions between the Turkish Cypriot enclave and the nationalist government in Ankara ahead of an April election in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Last week Mustafa Akinci (pictured), the president of Turkish Cyprus, told the Guardian newspaper that the window was closing for Cypriot unification before Turkish Cyprus became another province of Turkey.
Akinci’s remarks were condemned as disloyal on the Turkish mainland.
The leftwing former Nicosia mayor said differences were growing between the island’s two communities.
“We need to hurry up. After all these years we have come to a crossroads, a decisive moment,” said Akinci, who launched his re-election campaign last week.
He met Anastasiades last Monday in the UN-controlled buffer zone in the capital, Nicosia.
Omer Celik, a spokesman for the Justice and Development (AK) Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Akinci should apologise for his disrespectful comments.
“We condemn those statements that defame our history’s national achievements and esteemed characters,” Celik added.
The latest reunification talks failed to make progress in 2017 in Switzerland.
Turkish Cypriots want considerable devolution in a unified island and for some of the 35,000 Turkish troops currently stationed in the north to remain on the island. The Greek Cypriot side has insisted that they leave.
Mustafa Akinci is up for reelection in April. Picture credit: Wikimedia