Drilling has nothing to do with Cyprus UN-sponsored talks

Exploratory drilling to locate natural gas or oil reserves has nothing to do with the negotiations on the Cyprus issue and is not in any way linked to the current juncture in the political arena, Government Spokesman has said, commenting on statements made by Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu in an interview with Euronews. Speaking to the press after a Council of Ministers meeting, Stephanos Stephanou stressed that the Republic of Cyprus is exercising its sovereign right which is inalienable and non-negotiable. “Our plans included moving to the second phase of the search for oil, which means exploratory drilling. Work on this started a long time ago.“

The Turkish side, he said, is trying to link this search with the negotiations on the Cyprus issue to challenge the sovereignty of the Republic and to put on an equal par the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus with the legitimate state, the Republic of Cyprus, which is internationally recognized.

The illegal regime has no rights because according to international law, it does not exist, Stephanou stated, calling on Turkey to think carefully about recent statements by the US and the EU advocating the Republics sovereign right to explore its natural resources and to stop trying to cause tension.

Instead, he pointed out, Ankara must respect international law and international legitimacy.

The UN has said the regime in occupied Cyprus is “legally invalid“ and called on all states not to recognise or facilitate it in any way.

Referring to the ongoing UN-led peace talks, Stephanou said that the Greek Cypriot side shows good will and consistency with the agreed basis of the solution, stressing that the same consistency must be shown by the Turkish Cypriot side also.

Replying to a question on separate agreements between Cyprus and Egypt and Cyprus and Lebanon, the Spokesman explained that the agreement with Egypt has been ratified but the agreement with Lebanon is yet to be ratified.

Replying to other questions, the Spokesman dismissed suggestions that EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, had intervened to President Demetris Christofias with a view to suspend the search for hydrocarbons.

Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus northern part since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus. Following a decision by Nicosia to begin natural gas and oil exploration in its exclusive economic zone, Ankara has deployed warships in the Eastern Mediterranean and has signed an illegal agreement with the Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus to delineate what it calls continental shelf.

Drilling has already begun and is being carried out by Houston-based Noble Energy, off Cyprus south-eastern coast.

The government of Cyprus has protested to the UN and the EU Turkeys moves, saying it has a sovereign right to exploit its natural resources, pointing out that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will benefit from any benefits that may come from oil drilling.

Meanwhile, reports from the state news agency quoted British Minister for Europe, David Lidington, as saying that the Republic of Cyprus has begun exploration drilling for hydrocarbon deposits in its Exclusive Economic Zone, acting on the basis on its sovereign rights. The Minister also said that Britain expresses this position to Turkish officials on every possible occasion.

Lidington, who was addressing an event on Cyprus, organized in Manchester in the framework of the Conservative Party Conference, expressed hope that a bi-communal, federal solution is reached in Cyprus through the ongoing negotiations, saying that we will continue to do what lies within our power to give support to courageous leaders, who will have to take risks in the search for compromise.

Speaking at the same event, Minister for Transport, Theresa Villiers, said the benefits for all communities on the island should drive a solution in Cyprus and stressed that the geopolitics of Cyprus and Israel may be changing with the discovery of significant fossil fuel deposits in the region.

I believe that such a discovery can be very positive for Europes energy security and potentially very positive for the Cyprus economy, she stressed.

Villiers also underscored that it is therefore vitally important that the drilling goes ahead and that we can use it as the financial underpinning of a just and lasting solution for the island.

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