PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias has slammed Ankara for stoking tensions in the Mediterranean after Turkey made official its plans for offshore hydrocarbon exploration in areas overlapping Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
On Saturday, maps published in Turkey’s government gazette showed that oil drilling permits included areas near Rhodes and southwest of Cyprus.
The licences were issued to the Turkey’s national oil and gas company TPAO and cover areas offshore from Adana, Antalya, Antioch and Mougla, all outside Turkey’s territorial waters.
The maps show that the permits stretch as far as the Greek island of Rhodes as well as plots 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 as delineated by the Republic of Cyprus, south and south-west of the island.
“Turkish threats shall not bring us to heel,” Christofias told newsmen yesterday.
“Turkey is a country which operates in a bizarre way,” he added. “Despite knowing that we shall not succumb to threats – and we shall not – at the same time it shows that it does not understand where its own interests lie in the matter.”
If, instead, Turkey opted to work with Cyprus toward solving the island’s political problem, then the two nations could become commercial partners in peacetime.
In fact, energy collaboration in the Mediterranean would be inevitable, Christofias said.
“Geography cannot be altered. Cyprus and Turkey – provided there is a viable and just solution of the Cyprus problem, withdrawal of [Turkish] troops, settlers, and the cessation by Turkey of any attempts at controlling Cyprus and holding it hostage – are doomed to work together,” he added.
The government has lodged verbal demarches protesting and denouncing Turkey’s action. Written demarches will be given to the UN Security Council, the President of the European Council and other EU bodies.
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, or its right to explore or exploit hydrocarbon reserves prior to reunification. It says the island’s natural wealth belongs to Greek and Turkish Cypriot alike.
Speaking from the UN headquarters last year, Christofias made a vague offer to share any gas proceeds with the Turkish Cypriots.
Responding to the start of exploratory drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ late last year, Ankara deployed warships in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned that his country would “retaliate even more strongly” to any further mineral exploration around the island.
The publication of the Turkish maps comes days before the deadline for the government’s second offshore licensing round. Energy analysts say this latest Turkish move aims to pre-empt Cyprus’ own plans for gas drilling by creating fait accomplis in the island’s EEZ.
Experts speculate that Turkish actions are also intended to put pressure on oil majors – some of whom have contracts with Turkey – to keep away from Cypriot gas prospects. The move is seen as purely political, as experts doubt that Turkey currently has the know-how or the means to conduct drilling.
On September 21 last year, Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu signed in New York an agreement on the delineation of the continental shelf between Turkey and the breakaway regime.
The following day, the north’s “Council of Ministers” gave an exploration license to TPAO to explore for oil and natural gas around the island.
Only last week TPAO launched onshore exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the occupied village of Singrasi in Famagusta.
By Elias Hazou
Published on May 1, 2012