World Bulletin / News Desk
Israel has spurned Turkey's objections to a recent deal between Israel and Greek Cyprus, suggesting that Ankara has had nothing to say about the economic agreement, which is a bilateral issue, in a move likely to add further tension to already troubled bilateral relations with Ankara.
“This agreement is an issue between Israel and Cyprus and it in no way affects a third country,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor was quoted as saying on Monday by Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We do not see how a third country would have anything to say about it,” Palmor told the agency.
Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou and Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau on Friday signed an accord demarcating their maritime borders to facilitate a search for mineral deposits in the eastern Mediterranean where huge natural gas reserves have been discovered.
A day before the signing of the deal in Nicosia, Israel's Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara. Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioğlu, the ministry's undersecretary, conveyed Ankara's uneasiness to Levy on Thursday, diplomatic sources said.
Warning Levy of probable adverse impacts on ongoing efforts between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides for settlement on the divided island, Sinirlioğlu said such unilateral moves on behalf of the Greek Cypriots that ignore the will of the Turkish Cypriot side will harm ongoing settlement talks on the island, the same sources said.
Ahead of Palmor's remarks delivered on Monday, an Israeli government source had already dismissed Turkey's objections on Sunday, suggesting that “there is no connection between the Turkey-Cyprus maritime border and the Israel-Cyprus maritime border.”
“The Israeli source added that Turkish claims to the maritime area based on their 'occupation' of northern Cyprus constitute ‘chutzpah that is unheard of in the international arena,'” The Jerusalem Post reported.
The Mediterranean island is divided into Turkish and Greek zones. In recent years, Ankara has on many occasions made clear that according to international law, the sea boundaries between the countries and the limits of the continental shelf of each country need to be delineated via consensus among all coastal and neighboring countries when the issue is a semi-closed sea such as the eastern Mediterranean.
Since 2003, Greek Cyprus has sought to sign agreements with other coastal states – such as Egypt and Lebanon -- to delineate the island's continental shelf in the Mediterranean, angering Turkey. Ankara has urged Egypt and Lebanon to put the deals on hold, stressing the rights of the Turkish Cypriots and its own “legitimate and legal rights and interests” in the region.
The Turkish government recently announced it would begin exploring for oil off of the north of the ethnically divided island.
“We will begin work on oil exploration around Cyprus and in our exclusive territory,” Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said in October, while signing an energy protocol with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). At the time, Yıldız said the area included 288,000 square kilometers between the Turkish city of Mersin, off of Turkey's southern coast, and northern Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greek Cypriot Energy Service Director Solon Kassinis, meanwhile, told The Jerusalem Post that his administration's agreement with Israel “doesn't conflict” with its deal with Lebanon.
The Israeli daily recalled that Lebanese lawmakers have said that some of Israel's recently discovered gas fields stretch into Lebanese territorial waters -- a claim that was denied by Israel.