Turkey on collision course with Greece, Greek Cyprus

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis. (Photo: Reuters)

September 16, 2011, Friday/ 15:42:00

Greek Cyoriot foreign minister said on Friday that the international community backs the island's plans to drill for oil and gas off its shores, despite Turkey's strong opposition.

Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said the international community has afforded her government political protection for the search for mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone, which is near to sizable gas finds within Israeli waters.

"At this moment, we have a very satisfactory shield of political support over these actions," she told state radio.

Marcoullis said a rig belonging to Houston-based firm Noble Energy Inc. arrived on Thursday in the area where exploratory drilling will start soon, without any interference from Turkish warships in the region thanks to help from the international community.

"We are asking for these proactive steps and I believe these proactive steps have been taken to a great degree," she said.

Cyprus was divided into an internationally recognized Greek speaking south and a Turkish speaking north in 1974 when Turkey sent troops to the island to protect Turkish Cypriot population after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

The island is an EU member, but only the south enjoys the benefits.

Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country and opposes any Greek Cypriot oil and gas search, insisting that Turkish Cypriots should also reap any windfall that may come from any discoveries. It also said drilling could damage long-running reunification talks.

On Thursday, Turkey said it would strike an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot state that only it recognizes, to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration if Greek Cypriots went ahead with drilling.

The Greek Cypriot foreign ministry said any such agreement would contravene international law and insisted it has the sovereign right to pursue drilling activities.

Kozakou-Marcoullis said the government has briefed the United Nations' Security Council members as well as top EU officials about Greek Cyprus' drilling plans and Turkey's threats.

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