Cyprus unity could bring EU gas abundance – through Turkey, says Akıncı

A deal to reunify the divided island of Cyprus could lead to gas from Israel, Egypt and Cyprus shipped to the European Union through a proposed pipeline; however, it must go through Turkey, Greek newspaper the National Herald quoted Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı as saying on Tuesday.

Akinci put forth the idea as a key to bringing the island which has been split between a Greek Cypriot administration in the south, recognised internationally as the government of the whole island, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot government in the north recognised by Turkey, following a Turkish invasion of the northern third of Cyprus in 1974.

Turkey has a pipeline in place and the European Union has funded a feasibility study on the proposed East Med pipeline that has the backing of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, the newspaper said, highlighting that Turkey has put warships off Cyprus as part of an effort to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas.

Ankara has repeatedly voiced its opposition to gas search by the Cypriot government, pointing to an infringement on it rights and those of Turkish Cypriots regarding the island’s natural resources.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had already agreed to share any potentially lucrative energy finds with the Turkish side but Akinci and Erdogan said that’s not enough and that Turkish-Cypriots should have a role in the licensing or would begin drilling themselves.

“Everybody could win from this,” Akıncı said, while noting Turkey should also be the conduit for gas finds as the cheaper, faster “logical” route to markets for east Mediterranean gas.

The Turkish Cypriot leader said that he’s open to discussing a proposal by Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades for a more decentralized federal government in a peace agreement that would grant more authority to the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot zones, the newspaper said.

Akıncı did point out that Turkish-Cypriots would never accept domination by the majority Greek Cypriots and are demanding “effective participation” in federal decision-making.

UN-mediated talks on reunifying Cyprus broke down in July last year.

U.N. special envoy on the Cyprus dispute Jane Holl Lute is expected to return Cyprus following a visit last month for more contacts to determine whether stalled peace talks can resume.