The discovery of gas off Cyprus by the US company ExxonMobil, which defied warnings from Turkey telling foreign companies to back off, has raised expectations that lucrative revenues could be a catalyst for reunifying the island.
Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said the finding of energy in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) - parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize and as it has sent research vessels into the area - has created confidence it could ratchet down the tension.
He said the Eastern Mediterranean as an alternative source of energy for Europe was receiving a lot of attention because of the new discoveries. “This is why we feel that we should implement our strategy and keep the interest we have built in the region,” The Financial Mirror said.
“If we accept Turkish version of our EEZ we will be left with 30% of what we have today… we would have all of the discoveries in Aphrodite, Calypso, Glafcos, falling into other countries,” he said, referring to the names of gas and energy fields being explored.
He said he hoped that sharing the revenues - as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades would happen with Turkish-Cypriots unlawfully occupying the northern third since a 1974 invasion - would bring Turkey back to the unity bargaining table.
The last round of talks had broken off in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey insisted on keeping an army on the occupied land and wanted the right to militarily intervene again when it wanted, leading Anastasiades to walk away.
Turkey also wants Turkish-Cypriots to have a say in the licensing of foreign energy companies to look offshore, where Turkish warships had been sent previously, scaring off a ship from the Italian energy company Eni.
Lakkotrypis said that Eastern Mediterranean gas should be offered at competitive prices to compete with Russian natural gas sold very cheaply due to the existing infrastructure and shale gas from the United States, the report added.
The Minister was speaking at a panel discussion during the 10th Economic Ideas Forum organized by the Wilfried Martens Centre of European Studies and the Glafcos Clerides Institute, in Nicosia.