By Angelos Anastasiou
TURKISH Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday that hydrocarbons could not be used as a weapon by anyone, adding that if Greek Cypriots unilaterally continued to claim Cyprus’ natural resources for themselves, Turkey would reciprocate on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots.
Addressing the Atlantic Council summit in Istanbul, the Turkish Premier said there must be a settlement immediately, arguing that if negotiations stall the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots should form a joint committee to manage Cyprus’ natural gas reserves.
“In Cyprus, if everyone agrees that natural resources around the island belong to the entire island and use these resources in a shared vision towards peace, everyone stands to gain,” he said.
“If [the Greek Cypriots] are seeking to offer these resources, to which Turkish Cypriots also have a right, to international markets unilaterally, then by the same right we will conduct research in the same area along with the Turkish Cypriots,” he added.
Davutoglu said that if the two sides sit together and negotiate with a will to reunite the island as soon as possible, Cyprus would become a country on the rise.
“In such a case, the happiest of countries will be Turkey,” he said.
He called for the immediate return to the negotiations, which were interrupted last month when President Nicos Anastasiades withdrew in protest when the Turkish seismic vessel’s Barbaros began conducting exploratory research in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“The Greek Cypriots can’t claim that the Eastern Mediterranean is an area closed to Turks and Turkish Cypriots and conduct research wherever they want,” he asserted.
This doesn’t happen in politics, nor in matters of international energy reserves, he added.
He argued that Turkey is the easiest destination for the natural gas to be unearthed from the areas around Cyprus.
“Turkey is also the international market easiest to open,” he said.
“Therefore, no one should use energy as a weapon. If [the Greek Cypriots] were to say that they will impose the peace they want on the other side through control of the gas, then that will be the greatest blow to the Cyprus problem negotiations. Let us use energy as a tool for peace.”
Remarking on the transport of water from Turkey to Cyprus, Davutoglu said that Turkey’s plan was to share it with Greek Cypriots.
“But while we were thinking of sharing our water with the whole island, one side can’t claim the natural resources, which belong to the whole island, for itself,” he said.
He added that in the coming days he would be visiting Athens “to share these prospects with the Greek government.”
In his speech, US Vice President Joe Biden said Eastern Mediterranean countries should cooperate, and energy offers a tool for promoting regional stability, security and prosperity, citing the example of Baltic countries to illustrate the potential gains for the region.
According to Eric Gehman, Assistant Director for Publications and Communications at the Atlantic Council , Biden stressed the need for Europe to prioritise energy security with the help of their allies and friends. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin uses energy as a weapon,” he said, to undermine the security of neighbouring countries.
Only by diversifying supplies and improving transport networks across the country could Europe curb Russia’s abuses, said Biden. “Now, now, now is the time to act… What’s happening in Ukraine only serves to underscore this.”
Biden pointed to the eastern Mediterranean as a critical strategic resource for bolstering Europe’s energy security. The development of the Southern Corridor and new projects in Turkey and Cyprus could make the region into a key hub for European energy markets that Biden called a “major asset.”
Biden credited the Baltics for the work they have already done to reduce their dependence on Russian oil, praising a new Lithuanian gas interconnector aptly named “The Independence.” He called the Baltics’ efforts a model for the rest of Europe.
Biden concluded his remarks by pressing the European Commission to act quickly to identify and support key infrastructure projects that will accelerate European energy independence. “Energy can and should serve as a tool for cooperation, for stability, for security, and prosperity,” he said.
The Cyprus problem was also on the agenda of a meeting Biden had on Friday with Davutoglu.
“Vice President Joe Biden met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Cyprus settlement talks, and energy security,” the US State Department said in a statement. Biden was expected to meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan later yesterday within whom he would also discuss Cyprus.
Meanwhile Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the Barbaros would like complete its surveys by the beginning of next month. Turkey had issued a NAVTEX for surveys from October 20 to December 30. Yildiz said the Barbaros had a planned survey area of 2,700 kilometres. “If the weather is good, it will finish by early December,” he was quoted as saying.