US: No link in Greek Cyprus exploration bid and talks

US: No link in Greek Cyprus exploration bid and talks

US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon held talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu in Nicosia.

January 22, 2011, Saturday/ 16:39:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES

A senior US official has dismissed arguments by Ankara that the Greek Cypriot administration’s plans to explore the Cypriot coast for oil and natural gas will be harmful to ongoing reunification talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders.

US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon was speaking at a press conference on Thursday following talks on the divided island with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu, when he was reminded of Turkey’s argument that any Greek Cypriot offshore energy exploitation will hinder peace efforts.

“It would be good for Cyprus. We are prepared to help, as you know, an American firm is involved in developing the energy resources of Cyprus,” English-language online daily the Cyprus Mail quoted Gordon as saying in response, while he also stressed that the US strongly supports energy diversification in Europe.

A US firm licensed by the Greek Cypriot administration has a permit to explore for oil and gas southeast of the island, close to where Israel recently made two massive offshore gas discoveries.

“If it benefits energy diversity in Europe and energy supplies in Cyprus that is a good thing ... I really don’t see a linkage between those two issues,” the Reuters news agency quoted Gordon as saying on the same issue. Gordon maintained that rival sides in ethnically divided Cyprus have not made as much progress as hoped in peace talks, while, however, suggesting that there is still hope for a deal.

Peace talks on the eastern Mediterranean island have been limping along since 2008. Leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities will report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva next week about progress to date.

“They are not yet on the verge of a settlement. We would rather see them more advanced than where they are,” Gordon said. “Everyone loses from a perpetuation of the status quo,” he said.

Gordon said both sides were committed to negotiations, adding: “The process of direct talks between the two sides is the only way this problem is going to be solved, and from that we are encouraged.”

In İstanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held a lengthy and closed-door meeting with UN Special Envoy for Cyprus Alexander Downer. The main focus of the meeting was the upcoming Geneva talks, Foreign Ministry sources told the Anatolia news agency. Davutoğlu voiced Turkey’s expectation of a positive outcome at the Geneva meeting, sources said.

Davutoğlu also conveyed Ankara’s uneasiness to Downer stemming from remarks delivered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to Greek Cyprus earlier this month, sources told Anatolia. At the time Merkel put the blame on Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots for the absence of a breakthrough in Cyprus, which sparked a reaction from both the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders, who found Merkel’s assessment unfair and unacceptable.

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