Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry wants British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie to explain his country’s position that indicated Cyprus should not go ahead with drilling for oil and gas off the divided island.
The United Kingdom’s Minister for Europe Alan Duncan told Parliament he met with the Turkish Ambassador and said in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area in which sovereignty is under dispute.”
He didn’t mention that Turkey doesn’t recognize that law nor parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where it has sent drilling ships to proceed, with foreign companies licensed by the legitimate government also doing so in nearby waters.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Duncan’s remarks were “'unacceptable,” and came as the European Union - to which the UK now still belongs until set to exit later this year - has backed Cyprus’ right to license companies to hunt for energy.
Anastasiades had offered to share any potentially lucrative revenues with the Turkish-Cypriot side that has unlawfully occupied the northern third since 1974 but that wasn’t enough for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He wants Turkish-Cypriots to also take part in the licensing process and has sent two Turkish ships into the EEZ, one of which was less than 40 nautical miles west of Cyprus and approximately 83 nautical miles from the Turkish coast.
Anastasiades has described Turkey's drilling bid inside waters where ethnically-split Cyprus has exclusive economic rights as a "new invasion" and has rallied support from fellow EU.
Turkey said its actions abide by international laws it doesn’t recognize otherwise and it's drilling inside its continental shelf, creating the disputed sovereignty challenges.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)