Gas reserves key for Cyprus resolution: Turkish ambassador to Athens

Without a resolution settlement in the last fifty years, the Cyprus issue remains unresolved and is directly related to a settlement over sharing of natural gas, water, and electric resources between the Turkish and Greek parts of the island, said Turkish Ambassador to Greece Kerim Uras.

Without a resolution settlement in the last fifty years, the Cyprus issue remains unresolved and is directly related to a settlement over sharing of natural gas, water, and electric resources between the Turkish and Greek parts of the island, said Turkish Ambassador to Greece Kerim Uras.

ATHENS - Without a resolution settlement in the last fifty years, the Cyprus issue remains unresolved and is directly related to a settlement over sharing of natural gas, water, and electric resources between the Turkish and Greek parts of the island, said Turkish Ambassador to Greece Kerim Uras.

“The Greek Cypriot administration became an EU member just one month after it rejected the Annan Plan [a 2004 UN plan which envisaged a two-state federation in Cyprus]. Following that, eight of the chapters in Turkey’s EU accession were blocked,” said Uras, indicating that the Cyprus issue has evolved much more negatively for Turkey after the Greek side's unilateral accession to the EU.

Turkey has long warned the Greek Cypriot government against any unilateral moves to extract natural gas and oil reserves off Cyprus, claiming that the Turkish Cypriots also have a say on these reserves.

The dispute started when the American oil company Noble Energy found reserves between 142 and 227 billion cubic meters (bcm) in Cyprus Block 12, Aphrodite Field in late 2011, within the scope of its operations in Israeli waters. After the discovery of such huge amount of reserves, the Greek Cypriot administration declared that it would start drilling off Cyprus in cooperation with Israel. Turkey announced that it would taken all steps to defend Turkish Cypriot rights over the reserves.

After a nearly two-year-long pause, Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders held their first meeting on Tuesday and agreed to issue a joint declaration that outlines how the talks should move forward. It recommends recognizing the equal status of the two states, while aiming to bring the divided communities closer under a federal government.

“Even though we lost so much time, the recent joint statement (of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders) gave a new momentum to the negotiations. We hope things will speed up during this process,” Uras said.

The Greek Cypriot administration is a member of the European Union and is recognized internationally by all except Turkey. Only the Republic of Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Uras also emphasized that if there is a settlement from the negotiations, Turkey’s EU bid will be more positively received. He said that in such conditions, “Cyprus would become Turkey’s forefront supporter in the EU, instead of being an actor restraining the bid.”

Uras also mentioned another long-term dispute between Turkey and Greece over the territorial rights in the Aegean and the east Mediterranean.

Egypt and Greece decided to resume negotiations for establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean in late 2013, something which frustrates Turkey in the absence of a delimitation agreement between Turkey and Greece. Uras said that the Greek press reports that the ongoing negotiations between Greece and Egypt are not going well.

Uras says that Egypt is unwilling to move forward with this project taking into account Turkey's position, however, Greece regardless still wishes to pursue the project despite Turkey's objections.

The dispute concerns the areas of continental shelf to be attributed to Turkey and Greece beyond the six mile territorial sea in the Aegean.

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