Özgürgün: We won’t block Greek Cyprus energy pursuit, but will reciprocate

Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün

October 07, 2011, Friday/ 15:34:00

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) will not block the hydrocarbon pursuits of Greek Cyprus, but plans its own extraction activities if speculated sources of natural gas and oil are actually found in the eastern Mediterranean seabed, Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün said in words that clarified his country's position on the possible scenario cooking in the Mediterranean.

“We will not block it [extraction] if Greek Cypriots do find oil. But we will go and do our drilling there,” Özgürgün told a group of journalists from the Diplomatic Correspondents Association (DMD) late on Thursday. Özgürgün's words mirrored previous comments from Turkey that the unilateral declaration of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by Greek Cyprus was not recognized by either Turkey or the KKTC. Özgürgün further suggested that Turkey and the KKTC in late September signed an agreement on the delineation of the continental shelf between the countries “in reciprocation” to the Greek Cypriot move, when the country issued a license to a US-based energy company, granting rights for drilling in a block believed to be rich in hydrocarbon sources.

Özgürgün also noted that the license issued to the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) one day after the signing of the continental shelf agreement between Turkey and the KKTC covered not only the northern part of the island but also the southern, where Greek Cyprus is currently conducting its own hydrocarbon exploration. “The TPAO may conduct seismic research with any company or third country it desires, and the license covers the island almost in its entirety,” Özgürgün said and added that the reason for some parts being left out of the license was “just that those parts did not promise much potential for oil.”

On an important note, Özgürgün also stated that extraction would require another agreement, since the current one allows Turkey only to search for hydrocarbon resources. “Greek Cyprus chooses to ignore the activities of our research ship, Piri Reis, since it does not want a conflict,” Özgürgün also noted. The foreign minister also remained pessimistic about the prospect of Greek Cypriots' reaching a deal with the Turkish Cypriots on the drilling, since he stated that Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias was “going through a rough time,” with large crowds of people demanding his resignation every other day due to the failure of his government to manage the fallout of a deadly munitions blast in July, as well as the worsening economy in the country.

Özgürgün also noted that the agreement between Turkey and the KKTC would be ratified in the KKTC parliament next Thursday, despite protests from the main opposition party, the Republican Turks Party (CTP). The foreign minister noted that the party's protest did not make sense, as he called on party officials to reconsider their evaluation of the agreement between Turkey and the KKTC. “The party remained in power for six years, and party leader Mehmet Ali Talat acted as the head of state; their decision comes as a surprise in light of their experience,” Özgürgün said.

The CTP stated on Thursday that the agreement with Turkey would undermine efforts for the reunification of Cyprus and denounced approving it without consultations with opposition parties as an act of “grave disrespect against the will of parliament.” According to Özgürgün, the agreement will still be ratified by majority vote in parliament.

Meanwhile, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots kept up their intensified negotiation talks on Friday, with KKTC leader Derviş Eroğlu and his Greek counterpart, Christofias, meeting in the buffer zone in Lefkoşa to further discuss the prospect of reunification on the bi-communal Cypriot island. The talks are supervised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will be seeing both leaders at the end of October to assess whether the communities have been able to agree on major points in the talks.

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