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Cyprus to petition The Hague to safeguard offshore rights (Update 3)

Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz

President Nicos Anastasiades said on Thursday Cyprus intended to seek legal recourse at International Court of Justice at The Hague against Turkey over violations of the island’s exclusive economic zone.

Confirming earlier reports, Anastasiades said recourse to the Hague aimed to protect Cyprus’ sovereign rights.

“We have said that we will use every legal weapon, every international forum, every international organisation, to protect the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and recourse to the Hague has that very purpose,” the president said.

Anastasiades said Cyprus had attempted to deliver a notice of its intentions to Turkey’s embassy in Athens but it was not accepted.

“So it was sent another way,” he said. “There is proof that it was received, so that gives (Cyprus) the right to recourse.”

Reports said the notice was sent by fax.

Akel leader Andros Kyprianou said any legal weapon is undoubtedly valuable but struck a note of caution as to the efficacy of the move.

Kyprianou said there are two ways for Turkey to agree going to the court: either by accepting its general jurisdiction, something which Ankara has not done, or agree with the Republic of Cyprus on the object of the dispute that will be referred to the court, something “we cannot reasonably hope Turkey would accept.”

“The only thing certain is that there cannot be a unilateral petition,” he said.

Kyprianou said the other choice was to ask the court for an opinion but that would need the approval of the UN General Assembly or the Security Council.

“The opinion will not be legally binding for Turkey. It will certainly be politically useful in our struggle to defend Cyprus’ sovereign rights.”

The Akel leader warned that without the necessary preparation there were risks in the endeavour, both at UN and court level.

On August 10, 1976, Greece instituted proceedings against Turkey in a dispute over the Aegean Sea continental shelf.

It asked the Court in particular to declare that the Greek islands in the area were entitled to their lawful portion of continental shelf and to delimit the respective parts of that shelf appertaining to Greece and Turkey.

At the same time, it requested provisional measures indicating that, pending the court’s judgment, neither state should, without the other’s consent, engage in exploration or research with respect to the shelf in question.

On September 11, 1976, the court found that the indication of such measures was not required and, as Turkey had denied that the court was competent, ordered that the proceedings should first concern the question of jurisdiction.

In a Judgment delivered on December 19, 1978, the court found that jurisdiction to deal with the case was not conferred upon it by either of the two instruments relied upon by Greece : the application of the General Act for Pacific Settlement of International Disputes (Geneva, 1928) — whether or not it was in force — was excluded by the effect of a reservation made by Greece upon accession, while the Greco-Turkish press communiqué of May 31, 1975 did not contain an agreement binding upon either State to accept the unilateral referral of the dispute to the Court.

Turkey disputes Cyprus ownership of fossil fuels in the area, arguing that Turkish Cypriots are entitled to a share of the resources. Ankara also has its own claims in the area.

Turkey has dispatched two drillships to conduct operations around Cyprus.

The move prompted the EU to suspend talks with Turkey on a comprehensive air transport agreement and to freeze any high-level dialogue with Ankara. The EU has also announced sanctions against those directly involved in the drilling.

In February 2018, a drillship leased by Italian energy firm ENI was prevented from reaching a drilling target southeast of the island.

The vessel was blocked by Turkish warships, on the pretext they were conducting war games in the area. After a two-week standoff, the drillship withdrew and returned to port. ENI cancelled the operation.

 



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