Cyprus rebuffs Turkey gas threats

The Republic of Cyprus is determined to continue exploiting its natural wealth for the benefit of all the people of Cyprus, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

It was responding to Turkish threats over how Nicosia is handling foreign interest in natural gas exploration.

Turkey’s foreign affairs ministry on Tuesday warned energy companies interested in the third hydrocarbons licencing round in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for Block 6 that any exploratory activity would not be authorised because Turkey claims it lays within its continental shelf.

According to an article published in Milliyet, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said a significant part of Block 6 lies within Turkey’s continental shelf making the presence of foreign companies for unauthorised hydrocarbon exploration and extraction activities “impossible”.

He also said it was worrying the Greek Cypriot side appeared to be acting on its own on the issue even though negotiations towards a solution of the Cyprus problem appeared to include agreement that, once this was achieved, the island’s natural resources would belong to the federal government.

Bilgic called on the companies and countries involved in the licensing round to “respect the legal and equal rights of the Turkish Cypriots, the island in its entirety”.

In an official statement on Wednesday, the government said that Turkey’s position was nothing new and also described them as “unacceptable and without legal basis” but also noted that, after a solution, all Cyprus’ people would be able to benefit from wealth generated by the natural gas.

The statement added that, as a remember of the United Nations and the European Union, the Republic of Cyprus, as all other member states, was merely exercising its sovereign rights on the EEZ, adding: “If Turkey doubts these rights, it can simply has to peacefully make use of the relevant international legal recourses”.

The government also noted “the best response of all to Turkey’s claims is the interest that has been shown by important petrol companies in licencing for blocks within Cyprus’ EEZ”.

The statement also said: “After the Cyprus problem is settled all the people of Cyprus will be in a position to benefit from this wealth. So, Turkey has to do little more than cooperate and contribute to achieving a solution to the problem,” the statement said.

Cyprus also said the exercising of its sovereign rights was in no way connected to the on-going dialogue towards solving the Cyprus problem.

Cyprus’ Energy Ministry last week received a total of six bids from eight companies for its third licencing round for the offshore exploration of Blocks 6, 8 and 10 within Cyprus’ EEZ.

They include US energy giant ExxonMobil in a joint bid with Qatar Petroleum for Block 10; while a consortium of Italy’s ENI and France’s Total, also applied for block 10, as well as for Block 6.

Capricorn consortium, a subsidiary of Scotland’s energy company Cairn, along with Israeli energy companies Delek and Avner, have bid for Block 8, for which ENI also applied.

Turkey’s insistence part of Block 6 lies within the Turkish continental shelf is nothing new.

Turkey in March slammed the Cyprus government over the announcement of a third licencing round for natural gas exploration within the island’s EEZ.

At the time, Turkey’s foreign ministry said the “Greek Cypriot administration” was challenging the right of Turks on the island at a time when the two sides were negotiating reunification.

Turkey’s claims partly overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7. Ankara also supports the north’s claims on blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13, including few kilometres from the Aphrodite gas field.

Source: In-Cyprus