By Jean Christou
BRITAIN recognises the rights of Cyprus to exploit its hydrocarbons reserves within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Minister for Europe David Lidington said yesterday repeating the UK’s position that they must be used for the benefit of all Cypriots.
Speaking after a meeting at the presidential palace with President Nicos Anastasiades, Lidington said: “The policy of the British government is very clear that we recognise the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus and the right of the Republic of Cyprus and only the Republic of Cyprus to develop whatever hydrocarbons there may be within its waters.”
“We also have the consistent view that hydrocarbon resources are to be used for the benefit of all Cypriots… that after all is one of the great prizes to be won through a Cyprus settlement,” the British minister added.
He said he and Anastasiades had talked about a number of issues that had to do with hopes for the resumption of settlement talks. “We saw the joint declaration this year as a very significant step forward and we want to see that built upon at the earliest possible date,” he said.
A settlement, he said, would enable everybody in Cyprus to benefit from the prosperity that would result from the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources and the potential to develop Cyprus as an energy hub for the entire eastern Mediterranean region.
Asked if he believed the issue of hydrocarbons should be discussed within the framework of the UN-led talks or after the solution of the Cyprus problem, he said that it was not for the UK to prescribe how the parties should get back to settlement talks.
“These are matters that I discussed with the President, I listened closely to his ideas about the way forward, I want to hear Mr [Espen Barth] Eide’s ideas and the views of the Turkish Cypriot community leaders as well,” Lidington added. He is due to meet the UN Special Envoy during his visit.
“The UK’s role in this has always been to hope for a successful outcome to the settlement talks, it is not our job to lay down how that should be achieved. It is a Cypriot-led process and must remain that if there is to be a settlement that will endure, it is not something to be seen to be artificially imposed upon the communities in Cyprus,” Lidington said.
“It has to be a settlement that the Cypriots of all communities feel that they have negotiated and own themselves and the UN has an important role to play in facilitating that and we are giving our full support to what Mr Eide is doing.”
Lidington also spoke of the bilateral relationship between Cyprus and the United Kingdom, which he said “has never been stronger.”
Lidington and Anastasiades discussed a range of issues related to the technical assistance that Cyprus has been getting from the UK in terms of modernising some of its government structures, the economic and commercial relationship and the close work in combating the threat from international terrorism and especially “the serious instability in the Middle East where the rise of ISIL is a threat to security and safety.”
“We are able to talk to each other in a spirit of cordiality and frankness, understand each other’s positions and I look forward to great intensification of that relationship in the future,” he added.
Yesterday afternoon Lidington, along with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides toured the British naval vessel HMS Defender docked at Limassol port. While on board, the two ministers had the opportunity to discuss regional security and the continued partnership and collaboration between Cyprus and Britain.
“Our joint visit on the HMS Defender proves our commitment to the collective efforts to address asymmetric threats that are proliferating in the wider region. It also proves our unwavering dedication to common values and principles,” said Kasoulides afterwards.