14 Ekim 2011 Cuma

Deal with north Cyprus, top minister tells the EU

Friday, September 30, 2011
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış says the European Union should negotiate with the northern Cyprus not with Turkey regarding the gas drilling issue in the Eastern Mediterranean. ‘EU countries should directly address the northern Cyprus government, as Turkey is not the one searching for oil and gas in the Mediterranean,’ he says

Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış (R) is talking with the EU High Commissioner Stefan Fule in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in this file photo.

The European Union should address the northern Cyprus government directly, not Turkey, regarding the oil and gas exploration controversy in the region, Turkey’s minister of EU affairs said Friday, calling southern Cyprus’s approach to the conflict “spoiled.”

“They keep addressing their concerns to Turkey, but the decision to carry out geophysical and seismic research in the Mediterranean is a decision made by Turkish Cyprus,” said Minister Egemen Bağış, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News on the sidelines of the European People Management Conference held in Istanbul.

“EU countries should directly address the northern Cyprus government, as Turkey is not the one searching for oil and gas in the Mediterranean. The northern Cyprus government made the agreement with the Turkish Petroleum Corporation [TPAO],” said Bağış.

“Turkey’s actions in the region are not actually actions, but reactions,” said Bağış. “If the action stops, the reaction will stop, if it does not, then the reaction continues.” He said the Greek Cypriots triggered the crisis by starting oil and gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean Sea while the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus were having reunification talks.

Spoiled behavior
Members of the European parliament were united on Tuesday in their concerns about the rising tensions between Turkey and Greek Cyprus in the dispute over oil and gas exploration and the parliament condemned Turkey’s “threats” and stressed that any threat against one member state was a threat against the whole EU. “They should look first who really started this conflict,” said Bağış. “It wasn’t us. It was Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias.” Bağış also said Turkey was not threatening Europe though it would continue to secure its own rights in its territory.

“The minister said Greek Cyprus was one of the main reasons Turkey’s EU membership negotiations have stalled. “Just because of the spoiled behavior of Greek Cyprus we were unable to open the energy chapter in our membership negotiations with the European Union. [Greek Cyprus] is using these matters as an instrument in domestic politics.” Christofias on Friday said Greek Cyprus would continue to explore for oil and gas in its exclusive economic zone, and that his side of the island was disappointed with Turkey’s continental-shelf delimitation accord with Turkish Cyprus. He also called the accord “provocative” for the international community, the Anatolia news agency reported. 

Bağış said Greek Cyprus had long blocked Turkey’s negotiations and opening new chapters with the EU. “Our primary aim is full membership.” Noting that Turkey could only open 13 chapters out of 33, Bağış said, “Seventeen chapters are blocked politically. The EU only wants three chapters to be opened, and those are the ones that would bring an economic burden on Turkey’s economy.” The U.S. on Thursday renewed its support for Greek Cyprus’s “right” to explore for gas, as the showdown between Greek Cypriots and Turks intensified. “The United States supports Cyprus’s right to explore for energy. Having a U.S. company involved in developing the energy resources of Cyprus is also positive,” U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, AFP reported.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said he was not expecting an armed struggle in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and invited all parties to find a peaceful solution to the gas drilling issue.

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