British Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan has expressed his frustration over the intense criticism addressed personally to him by Nicosia for comments he made on Tuesday about Cyprus’ sovereignty being “under dispute” in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Cyprus News Agency has reported.
Cyprus’ high commissioner to the UK, Euripides Evriviades, met with Sir Alan Duncan on Wednesday afternoon at the Foreign Office in London to convey his government’s strong objection to the minister’s remarks.
Later in the evening Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis told a London audience of investors and entrepreneurs that Turkey’s incursion into the EEZ was “not the first provocation we are having, but by far the most serious one”.
“The spot where Turkey is trying to drill is 37 nautical miles off the coast of Cyprus. I am wondering if anyone under any circumstances through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) can consider this area, 37 nautical miles from the coast, a disputed area,” he said pointing to a map of Cyprus’ EEZ.
Foreign Office sources have said that Tuesday’s statements by Sir Alan and by officials should leave no doubt about the UK position.
A clarification issued on Tuesday evening by the Foreign Office stated that the UK recognises the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit oil and gas in its “internationally agreed” EEZ.
But the area where Turkey is threatening to start drilling has not been delineated, therefore under the law of the sea it is considered still “under dispute” the British argue.
The sources also say that Sir Alan Duncan’s statement actually amounted to a call for Turkey not to proceed with exploratory drilling in that area, since the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea prohibits such activity “in an area where sovereignty is under dispute”.
CNA understands that Sir Alan has also expressed his frustration over the barrage of criticism he has faced.
Diplomatic sources disputing the British argument note that the UK has not condemned the Turkish incursion into the Cypriot EEZ as it ought to and as other western countries have done.
Furthermore, international energy experts in London have underlined that the said maritime areas have not been delineated due to Turkey’s rejection of Cypriot calls for talks on the matter.
They have also stressed that Turkey cannot selectively refer to Unclos, a convention to which it has chosen not be a signatory.
Turkey, it has also been noted, is the sole country that votes every year against the Omnibus Resolution of the Law of the Sea item in the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Conservative and Labour MPs have written to the Sir Alan urging him to unequivocally condemn the Turkish incursion into Cyprus’ EEZ and to declare London’s support for Nicosia’s right to exploit the natural resources in all its EEZ. Such MPs include Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers and Fabian Hamilton.