May 26 2019

Granting Turkey ownership rights a way out of energy stalemate in E. Med – Cyprus Mail

Assigning to Turkey part of the ownership rights on Cyprus’ under-the-sea wealth is worth consideration as a solution in the energy stalemate with the country, wrote Christos Panayiotides, columnist with the Cyprus Mail. 

The area around Cyprus holds potentially huge reserves of natural gas, and while a host of foreign states and companies have made agreements with the Greek Cyprus to conduct gas exploration, Turkey, as the only country to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, has firmly opposed exploration that it says will infringe on Turkish Cypriots’ rights.

Turkey objects to Greek and Cypriot activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claimed by the Greek Cypriot administration. Ankara argues that the Greek Cypriot EEZ infringes on Turkey's own continental shelf.

Meanwhile, Athens and Nicosia have repeatedly said Turkey is violating international law with its claims and drilling activity near Cyprus. Tensions have flared in recent months as the drilling and exploration has progressed.

According to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (Unclos), ‘’every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea, up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles (or 22 kilometres) from its coastline,’’ Panayiotides wrote, adding however, that whenever the territorial waters or the EEZ of neighbouring states overlap, then the dividing line must be determined “by mutual agreement that would achieve a fair arrangement”.

Despite the fact that Greek Cypriot government accepts the general principle that all Cypriots should benefit from the exploitation of natural resources on the divided island, Panayiotides wrote, it has made it clear that it will not allow Turkish Cypriot involvement in managing energy resources until there is a solution to the Cyprus problem.

But how the promised fair allocation will be attained and what would happen if the UN declares the Cyprus problem as “unsolvable,” remains unclear, he added.

Turkey, for its part, has said its does not agree to the provisions of Unclos and therefore cannot be accused of violating an agreement which she has never entered into, the article highlighted.

With no authority empowered to represent both sides of the island, Ankara maintains the Greek Cypriot administration should primarily focus its attention on resolving the long outstanding problems with the north.

Furthermore, Turkey says it is ready to provide full support in finding a correct, fair and peaceful solution to all the pending matters, including the delimitation of the seas connecting Turkey with all her neighbouring states, Panayiotides underlined.

Since Turkey is unlikely to back down from its present position, ‘’Why is it inconceivable to seek a satisfactory solution to the Cyprus problem, in return for assigning to Turkey part of the ownership rights on Cyprus’ under-the-sea wealth?’’ the article asked, noting that a prosperous Cyprus could recover the relevant cost in a brief period of time.