KKTC keeps office in Israel despite Turkish row with the country

KKTC keeps office in Israel despite Turkish row with the country

Hüseyin Özgürgün

September 20, 2011, Tuesday/ 17:02:00/ MESUT ÇEVİKALP

The representative office of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) is still operating in Israel, the KKTC foreign minister has acknowledged, despite Turkey’s row with Israel early in September, which ended in diplomatic ties being reduced to the level of second secretary in both countries.

The KKTC maintains good relations with Tel Aviv, despite the problems Turkey has been experiencing with Israel, KKTC Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün told Today’s Zaman on Tuesday. The country, whose sovereignty is recognized only by Turkey, has as many as 20 representative offices all over the world and, as Özgürgün also highlighted, they carry out the important mission of promoting the country worldwide, while contributing to the economy of the island. Its office in Israel was opened three years ago at the request of Tel Aviv through Ankara.

Turkey has consistently emerged as a benefactor and protector of the KKTC since its establishment in 1974 through a military operation carried out by Turkey to prevent the reunification of the island with Greece. The row over resources exploited unilaterally by Greek Cypriots who abused the rights of the Turkish Cypriot was the most recent example of Turkey intervening to defend the rights of the KKTC.

Turkey’s latest reaction to the Greek Cyprus’ exploratory drilling came from Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız on Tuesday, when he argued that the drilling for hydrocarbon sources off the coast of the Mediterranean island was “political instigation.” Yıldız suggested that the exploration and excavation activities of the Greek Cypriots amounted to violation of international law against the rights of the KKTC community. The minister also said that it was provocation on part of the Greek Cypriots to drill in a contested territory where borders were not conclusively determined and where the exclusive economic zone remained an issue of debate.

Turkey, in reciprocation of the Greek Cypriot drills, plans to sign an agreement that will define the continental shelf delineation between Turkey and the KKTC and allow both countries to carry out similar activities, particularly in the northern coast of the island that lies between the KKTC and Turkey. Yıldız further reiterated on Tuesday that teams looking for oil and gas in the Turkish-KKTC zone would also be accompanied by warships. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also reinforced the idea of military surveillance in the drilling area by an aircraft, a frigate and torpedo boats on Monday as he vowed that Turkey would begin offshore oil and gas exploration operations in collaboration with the KKTC, following similar moves by Greek Cyprus, Israel and Greece.

“We have also been taking such steps with Turkish Cyprus and within a very short time, possibly this week, we may start work in the exclusive economic region,” Erdoğan told a news conference before embarking on a visit to the United States on Monday.

On the other side of the coin, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias raised the issue of the debates in his Monday meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over drilling  in the zone it claimed as its own exclusive economic territory, as he considered the Turkish warnings to stop the drilling a threat to the sovereign rights of his country. “The position of the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus is clear. We will continue. It is the sovereign right of the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus to explore and hopefully hydrocarbon will be found. Our Turkish Cypriot compatriots have nothing to lose, indeed they have much to gain,” Christofias was quoted as saying on Tuesday in the Greek Cypriot daily Famagusta Gazette. The report also noted that the UN chief had promised Christofias that he would speak with Erdoğan regarding the issue.

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