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FM to probe US interest in maritime deal with Turkey

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Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said he will probe Washington’s interest in brokering talks between Cyprus and Turkey for a possible maritime border deal following the United States’ role in mediating an historic agreement between Israel and Lebanon.

Speaking on CyBC radio, Kasoulides said he intends to float the idea to Amos Hochstein, Senior Advisor for Energy Security at the US State Department, when the two speak on the phone.

Hochstein mediated talks between longtime foes Israel and Lebanon – two countries technically at war – opening the door to offshore energy exploration in the Mediterranean. The two governments have yet to formally approve the final text of the agreement, but are expected to do so soon.

Kasoulides said he would suggest to Hochstein that the latter consider undertaking a similar initiative, this time for hammering out an agreement between Cyprus and Turkey. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, nor therefore that Nicosia has sovereign economic interests in waters around the island.

The foreign minister recalled that President Nicos Anastasiades has on several occasions intimated his readiness to discuss with Turkey the delimitation of the two countries’ exclusive economic zones – either through direct negotiations or arbitration.

The Israel-Lebanon agreement may also impact the EEZ deal struck years ago between Nicosia and Beirut – although exactly how is still unclear. Nicosia awaits an official briefing.

The Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify the maritime deal between Beirut and Nicosia.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun recently stated that Beirut would like to revisit the issue. And over the weekend, deputy Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Elias Bou Saab revealed that Lebanon has received a letter from Cyprus asking for the resumption of negotiations on the matter.

According to Bou Saab, the letter was sent by Kasoulides to his Lebanese counterpart.

On the Israeli-Lebanese maritime deal, foreign analysts said the United States acted as an honest broker, despite its perceived bias in favour of Tel Aviv. This, they posited, reflects Washington’s sense of urgency in unlocking eastern Mediterranean gas reserves for possible export to energy-strapped Europe.

Analysts suggest that Kasoulides wants to tap into this momentum.

 

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