Akinci Says Turkish-Cypriots Should Share in Oil, Gas Finds

The Turkish Cypriot delegation with Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, center, is pictured at the beginning of a new round of the conference on Cyprus under the auspices of the United Nations, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

With Turkish warships keeping an Italian company’s drilling rig from Cypriot waters where it’s licensed to hunt for oil and gas, Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the residents on the occupied side should benefit if energy is found and warned Turkey could look in the same waters.

The legitimate Cypriot government has also given licenses to an American and a French company to drill in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that Turkey also claims and where it sent warships to block the international companies.

That has resulted in a tense standoff even as Turkey has not drawn any rebuke from NATO, the United States, the European Union it wants to join, nor the United Nations. The Italian company, ENI, said it might withdraw unless a diplomatic resolution is reached.

Akinci suggested that there could be an interim solution, “despite the fact the Greek Cypriot side was not ready for a comprehensive settlement,” as CNN Turkey reported he said over the showdown logjam.
If a compromise isn’t reached, he said that Turkish-Cypriots would join with Turkey for its own hydrocarbons exploration in the island’s EEZ “because this wealth is common. It does not belong exclusively to the Greek Cypriot community,” even though the drilling is in waters belonging to Cyprus, not Turkey, which also doesn’t recognize the Law of the Sea but cites it when it’s in compliance with what it wants.

According to Akinci, the starting point for all problems in Cyprus is the perception of the Greek Cypriot side that everything belongs to it. The same is true of the EEZ, he said in Cyprus Mail and Kathimerini reports on his appearance.

Cyprus was trying to extend the “limits of its sovereignty” and to take possession of the natural resources of the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean without sharing them, he said, a demand from him and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“What needs to be done is to turn this from an area of controversy to an area of cooperation,” he said, adding that an intermediate solution could be found between the two sides although he didn’t offer one other than demanding any money if oil and gas is found.

He said he had warned the energy question should have been resolved at unity talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Turkey insisted on keeping an army on the island and wanted the right to militarily intervene.

Following that debacle, he said that the Cypriot government of President Nicos Anastasiades was trying to put Turkey into conflict with the big powers from France, Italy and the United States and their energy companies.

“By licensing these companies, in a sense, the Greek Cypriots are attempting to place Turkey in confrontation with these states,” said Akinci.