24 Aug 2011

Tension between Cyprus and Turkey over drilling

1:02 pm on 24 August 2011

Cyprus appears to be heading for a showdown with Turkey over plans to begin oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

The situation will add extra pressure to an ongoing attempt to reunite the island.

Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus have strongly objected to the move and Turkey is angered.

Deutsche Welle Radio reports the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia plans to start drilling in six weeks, but Turkish Cypriots fear any potential revenue from oil and gas will be solely for the Greek side of the island.

Turkey also claims the Turkish Cypriot community has not been represented in the drilling agreements.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Marcoullis said Cyprus launched its exploration plans in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and that the drilling would go ahead.

Cyprus Energy Services director Solon Kassinisinsists also dismisses claims that the Greek side would monopolize any revenue from what is discovered under the seabed.

''What we find ... is for all legal residents of Cyprus,'' he said.

Acting government spokesman Christos Christofides said it was the ''sovereign right'' of the Republic of Cyprus to look for natural resources. He added that Cyprus had ratified the UN's Law of the Sea - unlike Turkey.

The government in Nicosia has signed a contract with US firm Noble Energy to launch exploration activities in a3237 square km zone southeast of the island, bordering Israeli waters.

Massive gas fields have been discovered under the seabed there.

The Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet reported that Ankara has been urging the US administration to postpone the date that Noble will start exploration.

Deutsche Welle Radio reports the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, but has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to a Greek-backed coup in Nicosia.

Today, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey.