UK Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan has reiterated his country’s opposition to Turkish drilling in the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Responding to a National Federation of Cypriots in the UK open letter regarding Turkey’s incursion into the EEZ, the minister said he had raised the issue with the Turkish Ambassador in London, and the British Ambassador in Ankara had also engaged with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, to urge de-escalation.
“We have been clear both publicly and privately that we oppose their plans to drill,” he said, urging “dialogue, in accordance with International law” to be used, not “force, militarisation or coercion”.
Federation head Christos Karaolis wrote to the minister following his response to an oral question by MP Bambos Charalambous on May 14 urging the UK Government to clearly condemn Turkey’s action; call on Turkey to remove its drilling vessels and warships from the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ and; take action to ensure that this happened.
The minister went on to reaffirm the position of the UK Government that it recognises the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit its oil and gas.
In closing, Duncan highlighted the ever closer cooperation between the UK and Cyprus and said “I want to reassure the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK of the great importance the UK attaches to this enduring friendship.”
Last month, Cyprus was outraged by statements made by Duncan in the House of Commons, in which he said Cyprus’ EEZ was under dispute.
London later declined to walk back the remarks by Duncan about the ‘disputed’ maritime areas.
In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it had called on Turkey not to drill in the area off Paphos where it has positioned its drillship Fatih “where sovereignty is under dispute.”
A clarification issued 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 argued.
The drillship was stationed about 60km off Paphos.