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Britain wants to see Cyprus’ hydrocarbons exploration go ahead

Britain’s Minister of State for Europe Sir Alan Duncan (left) is greeted by former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides during his September visit to the island

The UK supports Cyprus’ sovereign rights over its natural resources and wants the hydrocarbons exploration to proceed, its Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan has said.

Sir Alan came under fire last month from the Cyprus foreign ministry when Turkey was blockading ENI’s drillship from reaching its target in block  3 of the island’s exclusive economic zone for the UK’d weak response to the situation saying Britain would “assess” the situation.

The British minister for Europe was responding this time to a letter addressed to the British foreign secretary by the President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK Christos Karaolis and to written questions submitted by the north London Labour Party MP Catherine West.

Karaolis’s letter, dated February 22, was calling on Boris Johnson to condemn on behalf of the British government Turkey’s provocative actions in Cyprus’s EEZ and West’s first question concerned the discussions that the foreign secretary might have had with his counterpart in Turkey regarding Turkish navy ships operating in proximity to the territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus.

Responding on behalf of the foreign secretary, Sir Alan said: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has raised recent developments in Cyprus`s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with Turkey. We support the Republic of Cyprus` sovereign right to exploit natural resources in its EEZ and want to see exploration go ahead. We believe Cyprus` hydrocarbons should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots, and urge all parties to look for ways by which the development of hydrocarbons can support the search for a settlement.”

West’s second question asked what assessment the foreign office had made of the naval security situation in the territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus.

“We are aware that Italian oil company ENI has been prevented from carrying out licensed drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) following Navtex issued by Turkey warning of naval exercises in the same area,” Sr Alan responded.

He then reiterated the UK support of the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign right to exploit natural resources in its EEZ, and repeated that the UK government “want to see exploration go ahead.”

He also repeated that Cyprus’ hydrocarbons should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots and that all parties are urged to look for ways by which the development of hydrocarbons can support the search for a settlement.

Last month, former Cypriot foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides described as “totally unacceptable” a previous answer Sir Alan gave to MPs at the House of Commons, merely saying London was “assessing the situation.”

“The UK happens to have a special relationship with Cyprus, for many reasons, apart from the fact that, as a guarantor power, it participated in the Conference on Cyprus. If it decided that it will ‘assess’ the situation, this is very regrettable,” Kasoulides said.

He expressed the certainty that this would have a fallout effect on bilateral relations. Relations with the UK had improved over the past five years, he said, including on security and in cooperation with the British bases, plus on the issues associated with Brexit.

“I will not be here to witness any evaluation we will carry out in relation to the UK but I would like to express my deep regret on this matter,” he said.

This, he added, was not the first time Sir Alan had disappointed Cyprus. He referred to the British minister’s stance during July’s failed Conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana but did not elaborate.

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