Greek Cypriot Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis has said in an interview with Turkish daily Milliyet that if the Greek and Turkish Cypriots find a concrete resolution for the Cyprus issue everyone will benefit in many areas - including in the sectors of energy, economics, and tourism. He also said the Mediterranean’s natural gas will be an incentive for future partnerships between Turkey and Greek Cyprus.
Lakkotrypis said “If the Cyprus issue could be resolved in a just, liveable, and functional way, investors will come to the country, and we will profit incredibly.”
“Natural gas should not be a means of war,” but a means of peace, he added.
He also commented on restarted comprehensive settlement negotiations between newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis and said he is cautiously hopeful regarding the negotiations.
“Think about the aspects of stability in this region if we are able to resolve the issue. Cyprus will play a great role in the region,” he added.
Akinci spoke about his desire to start negotiations with the Greek Cypriots which were suspended last October after the Greeks abandoned talks over a dispute with Turkey connected to natural gas exploration off Cyprus.
Akinci discussed in an interview with Reuters a “new dynamic,” which is the newly found natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, could help countries overcome their differences and said, "There is a possibility for all sides to win."
Lakkotrypis said, “There is a great potential of gas fields in Cyprus and the ones we have found can supply the island with electricity for the next 200 years.”
“We expect the results of exploration and to find more hydrocarbons in the fields,” he added.
The energy minister also said if the issue is not resolved by the parties, the Greek Cypriots will continue to use their sovereign rights regarding the gas fields off the island.
Turkey, Turkish Cypriots defend rights
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will not allow Greek Cypriot government to explore gas fields around the island of Cyprus on its own initiative and will not make any concessions regarding energy sources of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), speaking in May at the Sixth World Forum on Energy Regulation in Istanbul.
TRNC Energy Minister Hakan Dincyurek also said, “We will not give in our rights. The gas fields off the island belong to the entire island, in other words, both Turkish and Greek Cypriots.”
There is a dispute between Turkey and the Greek Cypriot administration about who should undertake gas exploration off the island and how it should proceed. The sea boundaries of each country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the region have in the past been a controversial matter particularly between Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration and Turkey concerning the law of the sea.
Erdogan said, “We have always stated that any energy resource which could be drilled in the region will belong to the people of the entire island. Turkey is the key stakeholder country to any drilling of the island’s resources, and for using and delivery of them to the international markets.”
“In Cyprus, if the two sides reach an agreement about using energy resources the same as it is done in Iraq, we will be the most pleased about the outcome. We have maintained our will for a resolution on the Cyprus issue until now. We will preserve our attitude towards the issue afterwards.”
Lakkotrypis partially reflected the Turkish stance, saying that “The Cyprus issue should be resolved in order to study the option of exporting natural gas through Turkey to Europe. If this option is possible, it should also be studied technically and economically.”
In a recent development, the United Nations (UN) envoy for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide said that the restarted negotiations between Akinci and Anastasiades have borne their first tangible results with decisions to open new crossings and interconnecting electricity grids on the island.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders met at Nicosia’s defunct airport in the UN buffer zone in Cyprus on May 28 under the auspices of the organisation.
Eide said, “Akinci and Anastasiades underlined once again their shared will and determination to reach a comprehensive settlement,” speaking to reporters following a meeting with the leaders.
The last major effort to break the deadlock and settle the Cyprus dispute was the Annan Plan, the UN proposal for the federation and consequent accession of a united Cyprus to the EU in 2004 initiated by then Secretary General Kofi Annan. While the Turkish Cypriots approved the plan, the Greek Cypriots rejected it overwhelmingly and entered the EU alone.
The island became independent in 1960 as the Republic of Cyprus and three countries - Turkey, Greece, and Britain - were made its guarantor states, according to the Zürich and London Agreements. Having a diverse population of both Greeks and Turks, following the establishment of the Republic many disagreements emerged between the two ethnic groups which failed to resolve their differences.
In 1974, the Turkish government militarily intervened the northern part of the island with the intention of protecting the Turkish population following a short-lived Greek-orchestrated coup on the island aimed at union with Greece (a concept known in Greek as Enosis).
Since 1974, the island has been divided into two spheres of government, the south being governed by the Greek Cypriot government and the north being governed by the Turkish Cypriots.