By George Psyllides
GREECE urged NATO partner Turkey on Friday to stop harassing Cyprus while it looks to exploit offshore natural gas fields, wading into a dispute that has complicated peace efforts on the ethnically-split island.
The row prompted Greek Cypriots to suspend peace talks with the Turkish Cypriots last month.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he fully supported the decision, accusing Turkey of trying to provoke Cyprus.
“Provocations cannot be ignored, nor can they be rewarded,” he said during a visit to Nicosia. “We hope Turkey will reconsider, to allow talks to resume.”
The Turkish research vessel, the Barbaros, has been sailing in waters close to exploration sites that Cyprus has already licensed to Italy’s ENI, France’s Total and U.S. Noble Energy.
The move prompted President Nicos Anastasiades to pull out of reunification talks.
The island reported its first find in 2011, with a reservoir containing an estimated 5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. It borders on waters Cyprus shares with Israel, which has recorded some of the world’s biggest finds in the past decade.
Turkey disputes Nicosia’s rights to search for gas.
Greek Cypriots say Turkish Cypriots can share potential benefits, but only when there is a peace deal.
“Hydrocarbons in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone belong to the Republic of Cyprus, and, post-settlement, any revenue from exploitation will benefit all of Cyprus’s legal residents,” Anastasiades said.
The two leaders talked about concerted action on all issues of mutual concern and highlighted the stabilising role both countries can play, in particular as EU member states.
Anastasiades stressed that their common goal was to deescalate tension and not to provoke more.
“We are not the ones who have caused” tension, he said.
“We would like to believe that both Turkey and our Turkish Cypriot compatriots will realize that such unnecessary crises do not secure anyone’s rights,” he said.
Addressing a special session of the House of Representatives later in the day, Samaras said Cyprus was becoming a valuable asset for the EU.
“In 1974, Cyprus was an open wound in our national subconscious. Today, the problem is still unsolved but Cyprus remains a source of strength and pride for Hellenism,” the Greek PM said.
He said the island was fast becoming a “valuable asset” for all European peoples who desired stability and security in the region.
“Even if it did not exist – the now European Cyprus – they would have to invent it. And because it exists, they must support and defend it,” Samaras said.
Samaras and Anastasiades were due to travel to Egypt late on Friday for a meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Saturday, with talks focusing on energy cooperation, Cypriot officials said.
Asked earlier if Greece will delineate its EEZ with Egypt, Samaras said that all issues will be discussed during the tripartite summit in Cairo, noting that “we can establish a strategic cooperation link between our peoples and between Europe and the Arab world, aiming primarily at stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the whole region.”