By George Psyllides
There was no question of discussing natural gas as part of the island’s reunification talks, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Saturday, and Turkey can be Cyprus’ customer after a solution but not a strategic partner.
“It (natural gas) belongs to the Republic of Cyprus… it is a sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus,” Anastasiades said in a speech at a conference in Limassol on the new challenges for Euro-Mediterranean relations after the Arab Spring.
The president stressed that Turkish Cypriots would also receive their share if the Cyprus problem was resolved.
Turkey, which backs the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north, disputes the Republic’s rights to a swathe of sea to the island’s south and southeast that are rich in gas reserves. It has on a number of occasions sent warships to the area.
Cyprus says the waters are part of its own offshore area, where it has awarded research concessions to France’s Total, US company Noble Energy, and South Korea’s Kogas.
Anastasiades said a solution of the Cyprus problem would benefit both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
“Of course we will not discriminate among customers with a solution of the Cyprus problem – if and when it will be possible to have a solution that will also be accepted by Greek Cypriots,” Anastasiades said, stressing that Turkey will not be a strategic partner.
Almost one trillion cubic metres of recoverable natural gas has already been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean Levant Basin, enough to supply Europe with gas for over two years.
Anastasiades also highlighted the island’s upgraded geostrategic role, noting that Europe needed a second source of natural gas and that route passed through Cyprus.
In an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday, Anastasiades said: “Europe will never stop needing Russian gas but there can be alternative supply sources.”
European states have become wary of heavy dependence on Russian energy since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimea peninsula last month.
Russia provides around one third of the European Union’s oil and gas.
Also speaking at the conference, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said Cyprus’ vision was for its natural gas to be what coal and steel was for the EU 60 years ago.
The island’s first weapon should be its geographical location since it was the EU’ farthest outpost, facing a world where extremism, fundamentalism, and numerous conflicts prevailed.
Natural gas should be the second weapon, being the common denominator for Lebanon, Egypt and Israel, which bordered the island’s exclusive economic zone, the foreign minister said.
By George Psyllides