22nd Feb 2024

Cyprus remains tough on Turkey's EU talks

Cyprus will continue to block Turkey's EU talks until Ankara stops acting like a "neighbourhood bully" by preventing Nicosia's efforts to exploit the island's energy sources, Cypriot foreign minister said on the day of the 35th anniversary of Turkey's invasion.

"The energy chapter can't open when Turkey tries to impede Cyprus, an EU member state, from utilizing its own energy sources," Marcos Kyprianou, the foreign minister and ex-European commissioner for the Mediterranean island of 800,000 inhabitants told reporters on Monday (20 July).

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  • Turkey has no right to prevent exploitation of oil and mineral resources off southern coast of Cyprus, Nicosia claims (Photo: European Commission)

Speaking after a meeting with his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos in Nicosia, Mr Kyprianou said: "It's up to Turkey. If it pledges to behave like a modern state in the 21st century that wants to join the EU and makes those necessary actions, Cyprus will then have no reason to raise objections," reports AFP.

"But as long as it behaves like the neighbourhood bully, then certainly Cyprus cannot give its consent."

Energy is one of the areas covered by the EU's membership negotiation process, launched with Turkey in 2005. The process has been moving very slowly since, mainly due to various disputes with Nicosia as well as opposition from some of the bloc's heavyweights, such as Germany and France, to Turkey joining the EU as a full member.

The energy clash between Cyprus and Turkey was sparked by Nicosia's attempts to explore oil reserves off its southern coast and Ankara's threats that Turkey will "naturally defend" its legal rights and interests in the wider maritime region.

Ankara also insists that Turkish Cypriots on the north of the divided island should benefit from the energy resources in the Mediterranean Sea which Nicosia rejects.

For its part, Cyprus has protested at EU and UN forums over "provocations" by Turkish naval vessels attempting to impede oil exploration off its southern coast.

"Cyprus, as other countries in the region, has determined its exclusive economic zone based on international law, the law of the sea specifically,'' Mr Kyprianou said on Monday.

"We will investigate Turkey's intentions and will make all necessary representations,'' he noted, adding that ''it is Turkey's obligation to normalise relations with countries in the region and peacefully solve any differences, and of course this includes Cyprus,'' a Cypriot website Financial Mirror reported.

Later this year, the Cypriot government is expected to launch a second round of hydrocarbon exploration licences for some of the 12 offshore blocks, while Texas-based US firm Noble Energy has been granted a licence to search for oil in the area, AFP reports.

Cyprus has also signed deals with Egypt and Lebanon on mutual exploitations of hydrocarbon deposits that cross their boundaries.

From the EU's perspective, Turkey is viewed as a key ally in future energy co-operation that could help break away the bloc's energy dependence on Russia.

Controversial anniversary

The energy dispute between Nicosia and Ankara re-emerged on the day of the 35th anniversary of Turkey's invasion of the island, which took place five days after a brief Greek-inspired coup in 1974.

The controversial event was marked by Greek Cypriot air raid sirens across a United Nations-controlled ceasefire line in Cyprus's south.

The Greek and Turkish Cypriots are currently trying to revive the reunification talks resumed last September which Ankara strongly supports as its EU membership bid is also indirectly connected with the longterm dispute.

In 2006, the EU decided to block eight negotiating areas from further discussion due to Ankara's failure to meet its commitments regarding Cyprus, notably its refusal to allow Cypriot ships and planes into Turkish ports and airspace.

For its part, Turkey maintains that Europe has also not fulfilled its own promises regarding expanded links with the de facto independent republic of Northern Cyprus, after Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the UN peace plan for re-unification of the island in 2004, just before Cyprus was to join the EU.

Greek Cypriots living on the southern part of the island voted down the proposal, which resulted in the island entering the union divided divided with the northern part, which is recognised only by Turkey, left behind and outside the EU.


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