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Cypriot report Cypriot report
by Euro Reporter
2011-09-19 07:26:15
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Cyprus fuel search row heats up

A row between Cyprus and Turkey over hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean escalated to near-crisis levels Friday as Greece, a traditional ally and European Union partner of Nicosia, warned it will do everything to defend the national interest of the two nations. Meanwhile, the United Nations Friday called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute, saying that any finds should benefit both communities on the island provided its 37-year division comes to an end.

“Turkey’s unilateral acts and recent repeated statements effectively contribute to the creation of a climate of instability, tension and, of course, of a possible regional crisis,” Greek Defence Minister Panos Beglitis said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Dimitris Iliadis in Athens Friday. Ankara should display “pragmatism” and comply with international law, Beglitis said, adding that Greece will not hesitate to “defend the national interests of Greece and of the Republic of Cyprus.” Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Atalay said Friday that if Nicosia were to go ahead with drilling, Turkey would demarcate its sea borders with the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the island’s north and begin explorations of its own.

Turkey on Thursday sent a Norwegian research vessel to search for gas and oil off the Greek island of Kastelorizo. Developments yesterday also prompted a reaction from the UN, which has mediated a series of unsuccessful reunification talks on Cyprus. “The United Nations would appeal to all involved to resolve this matter in a peaceful manner,” said special envoy Lisa Buttenheim after hosting talks between Greek-Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. “It should be understood that natural resources... would be for the benefit of all Cypriots... under the framework of a federal united Cyprus,” she said. The two men did not directly discuss the issue, but Greek Premier George Papandreou is expected to do so at a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the United States next Friday.


No plan to put army on alert

Cyprus denied a report it will keep armed forces on alert while drilling for oil in its offshore territory after Turkey threatened to send warships to the area. “We completely deny this report,” Aliki Stylianou, a spokeswoman at the Nicosia-based Ministry of Defence said in a telephone interview today. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that Cyprus’s intentions “would be a risky move,” web-based Hurriyet Daily News reported Sept. 6, citing an interview to television channel CNNTurk. As Cyprus’s boundaries remained undetermined, the island’s government should refrain from conducting oil exploration in its offshore territory, Yildiz said, according to the newspaper.

Cyprus is divided after Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup inspired by the military junta then in power in Greece. The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities resumed reunification talks in 2009 after a UN sponsored plan to reunite the island was rejected by Greek Cypriots. Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said today that his country, which is also a NATO-member like Turkey, will support Cyprus and any act of aggression will be deemed as a move against Greece, according to the Cyprus News Agency.

Praxoula Antoniadou, the east Mediterranean island’s minister of commerce, industry and tourism also responsible for energy affairs, said in a telephone interview on Sept. 7 that according to an existing schedule Cyprus will go ahead with drilling by the beginning of October. U.S. based Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) which has the license to carry out exploration in Cyprus’s Block 12 is working with Israel’s Delek Group Ltd. (DLEKG), which proposed the construction of a natural gas pipeline to Cyprus. The two companies are partners in exploiting Israel’s offshore gas findings. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today that his country plans to increase its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean to prevent a repeat of the attack by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship last year.


Cyprus to block Turkey-EU energy talks

EU member Cyprus vowed on Wednesday to keep Turkey's entry talks on hold as long as Ankara challenges the island's rights to launch offshore gas drilling, in an escalating row among east Mediterranean neighbours over hydrocarbon reserves. Rhetoric over ownership of speculated oil and gas deposits has sharpened after a deterioration of relations between Turkey and Israel, the discovery of massive gas fields by Israel and plans by Cyprus to drill as early as next month. Cyprus, split during a 1974 Turkish invasion after a brief Greek-inspired coup in which Turkey took control of the island's north, has blocked the opening of several negotiating chapters in Turkey-EU entry talks. One of those is energy.

"The position of Cyprus has not changed. Turkey must make a formal commitment to the EU that it will end its provocations towards the Republic of Cyprus and stop obstructing Cypriot efforts in the field of energy," said Stefanos Stefanou, the Cypriot government spokesman. Cyprus is represented in the EU by its internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week Ankara was ready to deploy its navy across the Mediterranean in a dispute with Israel over an Israeli sea blockade of Gaza. Cyprus falls under the radar of the warning since it coincides with Cypriot drilling southeast of the island, a right Turkey contests, and possible cooperation with Israel, whose rights to offshore reserves has also been questioned by Ankara.

Turkey, the only country to recognise a Turkish Cypriot breakaway state in north Cyprus, says any hydrocarbon reserves do not only belong to Greek Cypriots, but also to Turkish Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots have not been part of any Cypriot government since 1963, when there was a constitutional breakdown just three years after independence from Britain. The row could complicate peace talks launched between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in 2008, while the drilling coincides with a major push from the United Nations to resolve the Cyprus conflict by mid-2012. Timing of the drilling itself, however, is unrelated to the Cyprus talks and stipulated in contractual obligations between Cyprus and Noble, the U.S. Company poised to launch an exploratory drill in one offshore sector southeast of Cyprus around the beginning of October. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias on Tuesday denounced what he said were Turkish threats and said the island would press ahead with drilling as its sovereign right. Noble reported a massive gas discovery off Israel, and close to the Cypriot field, last year.

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