EU member Cyprus has a major natural gas find on its hands, which is complicating even further dealings with EU-candidate country Turkey. Unification talks on the divided island and Cyprus’s turn as EU president next year make this a particularly testing time. Cyprus strikes it rich; Turkey insists the claim is far from cut and dry.
For a reaction to the Turkish view, euronews spoke to the Cyprus government’s foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
Alasdair Sandford, euronews:
By going drilling for oil and gas in the first place, was this not a provocative gesture, that was obviously going to annoy the Turks?
Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus:
This project started several years ago. It is not something new. First of all, since 2007, Cyprus started concluding agreements with its neighbours, first with Lebanon then with Egypt in 2007. In 2010 we concluded an agreement with Israel for the delineation of our exclusive economic zones. All our contact and all our activities are based on the UN convention on the law of the sea. Following all these agreements, we began the process of licensing. All these activities are taking place in our exclusive economic zone. Whatever [everything] we discover in our exclusive economic zone, whatever natural resources will be for the benefit of Cyprus — for the benefit of the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, as well as for the benefit of the energy needs of Europe.
How are you going to ensure that it is for the benefits of everyone on the island, as you say for Turkish Cypriots as well?
We hope, and we are convinced that we will have a unification of the island, so that both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots — the entire population of Cyprus — will benefit from this exploitation of our natural resources. Now, regarding the conduct of Turkey: we are not surprised, really. I mean, we have been undergoing — for the past 37 years — an aggression, continuing aggression, and I think that now the international community, and especially our partners in the European Union, have started witnessing now the real face of Turkey.
Turkey says it is not being aggressive, and that it is just defending its interests.
‘Defending its interests…’ You defend your interests when you have the rights! It [Turkey] is going into our exclusive economic zone. It is now conducting, as they say, seismic research. And they threaten that they will go ahead with exploration and possible exploitation or extraction activities within our exclusive economic zone… the exclusive economic zone of a member of the European Union. And Turkey is a candidate for membership to the Union!
Speaking more generally, next year you take over the presidency of the EU. Are you going to use that to reach out to Turkey with a view to reconciliation, or are you going to try to isolate Turkey?
We are not going to try to isolate Turkey. I’m afraid that Turkey is trying to isolate itself from the European Union, when they are threatening – and this has come out of the mouth of all Turkish officials, from the prime minister to many ministers – that they declare that if there is no solution to the Cyprus problem by that time, that they will freeze their relations with the European Union. This is an insult for the European Union. This is an affront to the institutions of the European Union, and the problem is that Turkey does not recognise one of the member states of the European Union. This is a problem for Turkey, it’s not a problem for the European Union.