Cyprus should work with Turks on drilling, Turkish foreign minister says

Cyprus should find a compromise with the Turkish Cypriot administration as its political allies in the hunt for eastern Mediterranean gas have withdrawn, the Turkish foreign minister told local news channel Alanya DİM on Sunday.

But even if the Turkish Cypriots reach an agreement with their southern neighbours and reconsider their drilling licences to Ankara, Turkey will continue drilling southwest of the island, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkey has had long-running tensions with Cyprus and other regional countries over hydrocarbon resources around the island. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus that controls most of the island and rejects the exclusive economic zone it has agreed with countries including Israel and Egypt. It says drilling by Cyprus infringes on Turkish Cypriots’ rights.

“If the Greek Cypriot side had taken into account the proposals of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and learned to share, these tensions would not have existed,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkey has sent drillships with naval escorts to search for gas around the island, both in areas off Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognises, and in an area southwest of the island that lies in the Greek Cypriot EEZ but which Turkey says is on its continental shelf.

“If the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus says it is satisfied that its rights have been guaranteed and there’s no need to drill, then we will reconsider the licensing in the areas where it licenced us,but again there are the drillings on the continental shelf southwest of Cyprus,” the foreign minister said. “That’s where our dominance is. And I do not negotiate sovereign rights with anyone.”

With oil prices plummeting this year, the energy companies licenced to drill in Cyprus’s EEZ have pulled out, with only Turkey continuing its drilling activities. Çavuşoğlu said this had left Turkey in a dominant position in the eastern Mediterranean race.

“Now everyone is gone. Who’s there? Only Turkey is there. And the message in eastern Mediterranean countries is that Turkey is here. You have to work with Turkey,” he said.