ATHENS – With Turkish drilling for gas in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) raising fears there could be a conflict there, Greece’s new Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said his country and Turkey could work together to look for energy in the East Mediterranean.
He told the financial news agency Bloomberg in an interview during a visit to Washington, D.C. that the team could cooperate if the dispute over Cyprus drilling could be ended but had no plan for that.
Greece and Turkey, along with the United Kingdom – the former Colonial ruler which still has military bases there – are guarantors of security for the island that was divided when Turkey invaded in 1974 and has occupied the northern third since.
“There are thousands of synergies from tourism to exploitation of natural resources. You name it, it’s there,” he said, without indicating how Turkey could be persuaded to work with Greece as the two countries have tense relations after repeated violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and warships.
Greece’s former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, before being ousted by New Democracy in July 7 snap elections, backed sanctions against Turkey for the drilling but the European Union responded with relatively mild penalties that didn’t satisfy Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades who wanted a harder line to be taken.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus and parts of the island’s EEZ and bars its ships and planes although the legitimate government of Cyprus is a member of the EU that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005.
Speaking of the sanctions, Dendias said, “For us, it is not a question of the amount of penalties. It is to make Turkey understand that that is not the way forward either for us or for them or for Cyprus or for the stability in the region,” the Bloomberg report said.
Anastasiades has already rejected a proposal by Turkish-Cyprioit leader Mustafa Akinci for a joint energy committee to be set up and Dendias didn’t say why he thinks Turkey would be willing to accept his idea.