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Cyprus Rejects Turkish Demands to Stop Offshore Oil, Gas Drilling

January 31, 2020

NICOSIA – Already drilling for oil and gas in Cyprus’ sovereign waters, Turkey demanded the island’s legitimate government stop foreign companies licensed to operate stop, but was quickly rejected.

Turkey said the cessation of drilling by the companies, including France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and US energy giant ExxonMobil was a condition before Turkish ships would stop their work in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) reported Kathimerini.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that demand was designed to protect the rights of Turkish-Cypriots to take part in the licensing after they had rejected Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ offer to share 30 percent of potentially lucrative revenues.

Aksoy said that, “until these rights are guaranteed, Turkish Petroleum will continue to operate” in the areas licensed by Turkey in waters it claims.

“These rights can only be guaranteed either by jointly suspending all offshore activities in the south of the island until a comprehensive settlement is reached in Cyprus, or by launching a cooperation mechanism by the Greek Cypriots with the Turkish Cypriots in accordance with the July 13, 2019 proposal,” Aksoy said.

“Otherwise, Turkey will continue resolutely to protect the rights of the Turkish-Cypriots,” said Aksoy, with tension remaining as Turkey ignored calls by the Cypriot government and the United States to stop, with soft European Union sanctions not working.

Cypriot spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said the government “has never usurped or tried to usurp the rights of Turkish-Cypriots, in contrast to what Turkey has done, chiefly to the detriment of Greek Cypriots but also of Turkish Cypriots,” he also said.

Turkey has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion and its insistence on keeping a 35,000-strong army there, and demanding the right of further military intervention, led to the collapse of the last found of reunifications talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

Koushos also said Cyprus is willing to talk to Turkey on delineating EEZ’s between the countries but Aksoy said that, “The delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas to the west of the island of Cyprus will only be possible after the resolution of the Cyprus issue.”

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