Cyprus halts peace talks as Ankara plans to deploy seismic vessel
The ongoing ethnic conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots has deepened as the peace talks have stumbled over the Turkish side’s plans to deploy a seismic vessel into Cypriot waters.
Greek Cypriots are accusing Turkey of trying to undermine the ethnically divided island’s sovereign offshore gas exploration plans. In a statement issued last night, Cyprus’ president Nicos Anastasiades said he was suspending the reunification talks between the two sides. To remind, the reunification talks began earlier this year.
Turkey is planning to deploy a seismic survey vessel this month in what Cyprus claims to be its Exclusive Economic Zone. To remind, the Eni/Kogas joint venture last week began drilling for gas in the Block 9, offshore Cyprus, using the “Saipem 10.000” drillship.
On that occasion, the self declared state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), issued a statement condemning the “illegal” oil and gas exploration activities of the Greek Cypriot Administration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Cypriot Turks’ state, recognized only by Turkey, said that it would, as previously agreed with Turkey, send a seismic exploration vessel to the areas in which Turkish oil company TPAO was given exploration licenses by the TRNC to conduct exploration “on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot people, the co-owners of the natural resources of the Island.”
“Based on the results of the data received from the seismic exploration, it is anticipated that drilling platforms will also be sent to the relevant areas,” reads a statement by TRNC issued on October 3, 2014.
“I am really sad that due to the developments I was compelled to decide the suspension of my participation in the procedure of the talks,” Cyprus president said.
Last Friday Turkey advised mariners it was reserving areas offshore Cyprus for seismic surveys by Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa vessel (photo) from October 20 to December 30.
According to Cyprus Mail, the area “reserved” by Turkey is located in the Block 9, where Eni and Kogas are currently drilling. The newspaper says that while the area does not overlap with the part where the “Saipem 10000” is drilling for Eni/Kogas, it borders it and it may be an obstacle for Eni/Kogas future wells in the block.
Greek Cypriots describe the Turkish plans as a provocation in an attempt to harm the island country’s legitimate gas exploration activities.
Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, yesterday issued a statement saying that due to Ankara’s action, he was forced to put the peace talks on ice.
“I want to reassure our Turkish Cypriot compatriots that I remain committed and will work with all my strength to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem. What is necessary at this time is the implementation of confidence building measures and not measures that create more mistrust between the lawful citizens of the island, through actions that violate international law,“ Anastasiades said
“I have repeatedly stated that the natural wealth of the Republic of Cyprus belongs to the state and the achievement of a solution would help so that the entire population of Cyprus will benefit on the basis of population ratios.“
“However, at the time that the Greek Cypriot side proposes measures for building confidence in order to create a new momentum in the ongoing dialogue and for the real intentions of the parties involved to be revealed, Turkey, ignoring the benefits that she herself would have from the solution of the Cyprus problem, proceeds with actions that flagrantly violate the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, strongly undermining the efforts to find a just, viable and functional solution for the benefit of all Cypriots.“
“I am really sad that due to the developments I was compelled to decide the suspension of my participation in the procedure of the talks,” Anastasiades concluded.
State department view
Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said that “…we recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to believe the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. It’s important to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region, and we certainly support – continue to support, under UN auspices, efforts to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.”
EPP party president astonished
The President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Joseph Daul, made the following statement after a briefing he received yesterday by the President of the Democratic Rally (DISY), Averof Neofytou, and the leadership of DISY about the escalation of military activity from Turkey, including the dispatching of military vessels close to Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and, in particular, close to locations where ENI-KOGAS is currently drilling for natural gas:
“I am astonished by the recent military threats of Turkey, an EU candidate country, against the Republic of Cyprus, an EU Member State, and its right to utilise its EEZ. Turkey’s threats undermine the EU’s energy security and show sweeping contempt towards the sovereign rights of an EU Member State. Moreover, Turkey’s actions have seriously harmed the UN-sponsored peace talks. Now, more than ever, there is a need for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question based on UN Security Council resolutions and on the principles upon which the EU is founded,” underlined the EPP President.
“Therefore, I call on Turkey to immediately end its threats against Cyprus and to start behaving as an actor for stability, rather than for instability, in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus’ central role in the EU’s energy security is absolutely necessary and irreversible,” Daul concluded.