Cyprus Mail

Exploration and exploitation in block 7 ‘an exclusive sovereign right’

The exploration and exploitation of offshore block 7 is an exclusive sovereign right of Cyprus and does not affect the rights of any third state, including Turkey, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

In response to statements on Thursday by the Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, that the  agreements Cyprus signed with French Total and Italian ENI on block 7, demonstrated persistence in prolonging its “irresponsible stance”, the Cypriot foreign ministry said a country’s natural wealth belongs to the state and the responsibility for managing it lies with its government for the benefit of all its citizens.

Aksoy’s statement had said that the “a section of the so-called licence area number 7 remains within the Turkish continental shelf, which has been registered with the United Nations.”

He added that Turkey would in no way allow any foreign country, company or vessel to engage in unauthorised hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities within its maritime jurisdiction areas and will continue to take the necessary measures to protect its rights and interests.

He reiterated that the Greek Cypriots were usurping the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, and the proposal of the north “towards an equitable allocation of natural resources of the island remains at the table.” The Greek Cypriot side had rejected the proposal as it was found to distract from the essence of the Cyprus problem and the need for immediate resumption of substantive negotiations while it contained provisions that do not serve the best interests of the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot people as a whole.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at a conference in Ankara on the Cyprus problem, warned on Friday that “those who think Cyprus’ and the region’s wealth belongs only to them would find themselves against Turkey’s and the Turkish Cypriots’ determination.”

The Cypriot foreign ministry said Aksoy’s statement “demonstrates, once more, Turkey’s utter disregard for conventional and customary international law” and its disrespect for the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus over its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

It added that block 7 lies within the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, in a marine area to the south-west of the island, already delimited, in accordance with international law, between the relevant opposite coastal states, the Republic of Cyprus and Egypt under the 2003 EEZ Delimitation Agreement.

“The exploration and/or exploitation of Block 7 is an exclusive sovereign right of Cyprus and does not affect the rights of any third state, including Turkey,” the ministry said.

It added that the signing on Wednesday of the contract for offshore exploration block 7 with ENI and Total, as well as the other relevant contractual commitments providing for the expansion of Total’s presence in Cyprus’ EEZ/continental shelf, “constitute an undeniable vote of confidence in Cyprus’ energy strategy, especially at this particular juncture, in the midst of the continuing illegal and aggressive Turkish actions.”

Turkey, it said, “deliberately fails, once again, to comply with international law, by making groundless claims and disregarding the position of the international community in full support of Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its EEZ/continental shelf.”

The Republic of Cyprus will resolutely continue its policy in the field of hydrocarbons, in full respect of international and European law, the ministry said.

Turkey’s reaction followed an announcement on Wednesday that Cyprus signed agreements with France’s Total and Italy’s Eni for exploration in block 7. Under the agreements, for the block 7 licence, the two companies have a share of 50 per cent each. In addition, Total will receive from ENI a share of 20 per cent for blocks 2 and 9, and 30 per cent for block 3, and 40 per cent for block 8.

Regarding Turkey’s claims in block 7, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said on Friday that they contradict the convergences that have been reached a long time ago in negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides, which agree that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) would be enforced. Turkey is not a signatory to Unclos.

President Nicos Anastasiades had made a counter-proposal on setting up an escrow account that would enable the Turkish Cypriot community to immediately reap its share of the profits – 30 per cent based on its population proportion – once money begins flowing into the hydrocarbons fund, expected in 2022.

The proposal carried the condition that Turkey adopts the Unclos and agrees to delineate its EEZ with respect to that of Cyprus. A move that if accepted would terminate Turkish drilling off the Cyprus coast and de-escalate tension. Turkish officials had on several occasions dismissed the proposal as non-serious.

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