World Bulletin/News Desk
A Turkish research vessel will continue searching for oil and gas off Cyprus, Turkish Cypriot authorities said on Tuesday, extending a simmering standoff between rival sides on the ethnically-split island over offshore gas reserves.
The row has already led to Greek Cypriots suspending participation in peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots, and on Monday they said they would not return as long as the vessel remained in the area.
Barbaros, a seismographic research vessel commissioned by Turkey's state petroleum company TPAO, has been carrying out surveys in an area in the east Mediterranean claimed by Greek Cyprus under international conventions.
Turkey, which is not a signatory to the United Nations Law of the Sea, does not recognise Cypriot jurisdiction.
The vessel, which had been docked in harbour for the past several days, would resume activities after Greek Cypriots said they would continue "unilateral activities" in exploring for gas, the Turkish Cypriot foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
"The Turkish Cypriot side will not remain unresponsive to the unilateral activities carried out by the (Greek Cypriots) which disregard the inherent rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriot people," it said.
Greek Cyprus and its U.S. partner Noble Energy discovered natural gas off its southern coast in 2011. A consortium comprised of Italy's ENI and South Korea's Kogas is now drilling in another area for gas.
Their research work is exclusively focussed on Cyprus's southern rim off territory controlled by an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government, and not north which is administered by an unrecognised Turkish Cypriot state.
The Turkish Cypriot side would continue to take "all necessary steps" to protect its interests. That included drilling in cooperation with Turkey, the foreign ministry said.
It did not specify where.
Greek Cypriots say Turkish Cypriots can reap the benefits of any gas finds as part of a peace deal.
Turkey's rights in the dispute over Cyprus' offshore energy resources must be considered, said the Greek team leader in non-binding exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece.
"We cannot deny that Turkey is a key country in the region, and as the Turkish prime minister said, it is not acceptable for us to ignore its requests regarding the Cyprus resources," Greek team leader Pavlos Apostolidis told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini on Sunday.
Turkey is an important player in the eastern Mediterranean, and there cannot be a determination against Turkey’s will, Apostolidis said.
But we are not ready to finalize the talks, he added. "The Greek government already has problems because of the economic crisis and it cannot handle foreign policy at the same time."
Exploratory talks on the Cyrpus offshore energy resources are due to commence in the spring. Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu will head the Turkish team.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Dec.10, 2014 that Turkey would continue drilling gas in the Eastern Mediterranean as long as the Greek Cypriot administration insists on all rights to the gas reserves. He pledged to protect Turkish Cypriots’ right to the natural gas resources until a fair distribution of resources is agreed with the Greek Cypriot administration.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Ocak 2015, 17:29