Davutoğlu: Greek Cyprus dependent on Turkey to sell gas
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (Photo: Today's Zaman)
The Greek Cypriot administration will have to rely on Turkey to export the natural gas it hopes to extract from eastern Mediterranean fields, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in remarks published on Thursday.
The foreign minister also reiterated that if Greek Cyprus insists on using hydrocarbon reserves off the island to overcome its debt crisis without the consent of the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey is ready to discuss a two-state solution on the island in order to claim the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the reserves.
“There is nowhere that the gas could go except Turkey,” Davutoğlu told journalists on his plane en route to Tbilisi. He said Turkey itself needs energy and would also be the best transit option if Greek Cyprus opts for exporting the gas to Europe. “Which country [in the region] is energy-hungry? If they decide to sell it to Europe, where will it go through? An undersea pipeline through Crete to Greece may be considered but there are big fault lines in that terrain; it is not feasible,” he said. “So, they are obligated [to cooperate with Turkey.]”
A deal last week between Turkey and Israel to mend fences may also isolate the Greek Cypriots in their plans to export the gas through a route circumventing Turkey. Analysts say the reconciliation deal is likely to pave the way for direct energy cooperation between Turkey and Israel, which also has gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean -- circumventing Greek Cyprus.
Turkey is concerned that the Greek Cypriots could use the gas in a potential deal with Russia or the EU to secure bailout loans. The idea was reportedly discussed in talks between Greek Cypriot and Russian officials in Moscow last week but the discussions produced no deal. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also cast doubt on the inclusion of hydrocarbon reserves in a loan deal, saying there are concerns regarding commercial viability and questions stemming from Turkish objections.
“If Greek Cyprus insists that those reserves are theirs, this would implicitly give the right to north Cyprus to say that the reserves in the north belong [exclusively] to the Turkish Cypriots. In such an event, it absolutely requires discussing a two-state solution,” said Davutoğlu.
“This is the first time in 30 years that Turkey has openly talked of supporting a two-state solution,” Davutoğlu also said. “We don't put it [two-state solution] on the table as a threat. We put it forward as positive leverage. But it is not possible for us to accept an understanding that 'all resources belong to us'.”
Davutoğlu said there are three options: the immediate resumption of talks for a comprehensive political settlement between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots within a set timeframe; or if this were to fail, the establishment of a joint committee of Turkish and Greek Cypriot representatives to decide on how to share the hydrocarbon reserves between the two communities in the absence of a political settlement; and finally a two-state solution that would mean permanent partition of the island.
Turkey has long warned the Greek Cypriot government against unilateral moves to extract natural gas and oil reserves off Cyprus, saying the Turkish Cypriots, who run their own state in the north of the island, also have a say on these reserves.
‘Russian base in Cyprus a dream'
Davutoğlu also dismissed prospects that Greek Cyprus could offer military bases to Russia, again in return for a loan deal, saying this is against international law.
“We are a guarantor state in Cyprus and we don't have a military base there. As far as international law is concerned, this [Russian bases in Cyprus] is not possible,” he was quoted as saying by the Star daily. “We don't take such allegations seriously.”
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish north and a Greek Cypriot south since 1974, when Turkey sent troops in the aftermath of a Greek-inspired coup to unite the island with Greece. In 2004, a UN plan to reunite the island, backed by Turkey, collapsed because it was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in a referendum. Talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders to reach an agreement on a reunification plan have failed to produce any breakthrough. The talks are on hold as Greek Cyprus' newly elected leader, Nicos Anastasiades, is focused on the debt crisis.