NICOSIA — Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he’s willing to share potentially lucrative revenues from newly-beginning oil and gas exploration with Turkish-Cypriots occupying the northern third of the island but wants Turkey to remove warships aimed at blocking foreign energy companies to drill off the coast.
Turkey doesn’t recognize much of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent warships there stop drilling, succeeding in forcing an Italian company rig to veer off, reportedly under the threat of being sunk.
But US oil giant ExxonMobil has gone ahead in an area where it has a license after ships from the US Sixth Fleet conducted naval exercises nearby, which the US government said was a sheer coincidence.
European Union leaders – joining with the US – said Cyprus has a right to look for energy but Erdogan discounted that and said he’ll send Turkish research vessels to look in the same waters and that Turkish-Cypriots should take part in the operations.
He said Turkey’s argument that it’s acting to safeguard the interests of breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the ethnically split country’s natural resources is a “cover” to achieve its goal of controlling the east Mediterranean’s hydrocarbon reserves and to act as a prime energy supplier to Europe.
Anastasiades said Turkish-Cypriot rights are fully protected because any proceeds from the gas deposits belong to all Cypriots even those who are living in the part that was unlawfully occupied during a 1974 Turkish invasion.
Relations have soured in the wake of collapsed reunification talks that fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Anastasiades said he couldn’t accept Turkish demands to keep an army on the island and the right to militarily intervene.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)