Turkey on Thursday blasted the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral action on hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On Wednesday, the Greek Cypriot administration invited oil companies to bid on a “license” to explore an area off the southern coast of Cyprus, continuing unilateral actions first undertaken in February 2016 when the administration launched a licensing round to commence drilling for offshore hydrocarbon reserves.
Turkey, which for years has slammed the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral moves to exploit natural gas reserves in its waters to the exclusion of the Turkish Cypriots in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), an independent state recognised only by Ankara, insists that a lasting peace deal must be reached between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots before international agreements over the hydrocarbon reserves can be made.
In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the Greek Cypriot administration's activities “disregard the inalienable rights to natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the island.”
"We are concerned that the Greek Cypriot administration has decided to invite international companies to the unilaterally delimited so-called license area by ignoring Turkish Cypriots' rights," the statement said.
The ministry blamed the Greek Cypriot side for the failure of last year's negotiations in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to reunite Cyprus after over four decades of division. Turkey accused the Greek Cypriots of demonstrating unwillingness to accept a partnership with the Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality.
"This attitude of the Greek Cypriot side, which does not shrink from irresponsibly jeopardising the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region, is actually the fundamental reason behind the failure of the Cyprus settlement negotiations to produce an outcome for the past half-century," the ministry added.
The statement further said the Greek Cypriot administration’s activities also violate Turkey's rights to the continental shelf in the region under international law. Major parts of the Greek Cypriot "license" areas lie within the boundaries of Turkey's Eastern Mediterranean region, it said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the TRNC said the Greek Cypriot administration’s issuing of a license for drilling in Block 7 of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an indication that the Greek Cypriot side is pursuing policies aimed at usurping the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the natural resources of Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriot side is ignoring Turkish Cypriots' rights and is also violating Turkey's rights to its continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean region, it added. The TRNC with Turkey will further its activities related to natural resources to protect their rights and interests around the island of Cyprus, it noted.
Turkish Cypriots have remained internationally isolated since declaring the independence of the TRNC in 1983 after almost a decade of failed attempts to reunite the island, which was divided after a conflict in 1974.
Turkey, which according to a 1960 treaty is a legal guarantor of peace in Cyprus, has maintained security in the Turkish Cypriot north after launching a military intervention in response to a coup by the Greek junta on the island.
The coup on July 15, 1974 aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece, which was itself at the time being run by a military regime.
Turkey, which says it seeks a "just and lasting" deal in Cyprus, encouraged the reunification of the island in a 2004 referendum, for which Turkish Cypriots voted "yes" but Greek Cypriots voted "no."
Despite the result, the European Union accepted the accession of Cyprus into the bloc as a divided island, recognising the Greek Cypriot administration as the island’s sole legitimate authority, while upholding international embargoes on the TRNC.