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Turkey looks to work with the South on energy projects

9 April 2013

Tiring of long held political tensions which are undermining potential large-scale energy deals in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey envisions co-operation with South Cyprus and Israel in joint energy projects in the Mediterranean: “so long as the political atmosphere allows it,” Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told a meeting in Baku on Monday.

Yildiz said the region will enhance its power by continuing its political stability and move forward by using energy as a reason for peace.

“We have developed projects with Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Iraq while keeping away from the political commentary. Also we continue to provide Syria with electricity, even though the politics of the state is not approved of, the same with the Greek Cyprus government,” he said.

The minister was speaking at a meeting with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) president on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Strategic Dialogue on the future of the South Caucasus and Central Asia that began in Baku on Monday.

In a statement that can be seen to be extending the olive branch Yildiz said,

“In case of a possible remedy to political issues that remain a gridlock hindering further prosperity in our region, Turkey will be ready to take steps in order to ensure a lasting peace environment.”

He said that following the anticipated renewal of diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, Turkey will: “not only warm to partnering in energy deals with Israel but also would like to see Greek Cyprus be involved here.”

Citing some reservations regarding South Cyprus abiding by international law, he said:

“If we are able to make sure the energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean are made use of in line with international law, this will be an opportunity for regional peace and stability. If we see the energy plans that are against international law continue, then this is a threat to regional security.”

Turkey has, since the discover of natural gas offshore Cyprus, warned the South against moves to exploit those reserves without any reference to North Cyprus.

Concerns about the path that the South was taking regarding hydrocarbon resources were elevated when South Cyprus was discussing possible financial aid from Russia using fuel reserves off the island as collateral.

South Cyprus has already signed away drilling rights to major energy companies such as Noble and Italian energy giant, Eni.

Turkey recently told Eni that it would not work with the company in future and told Eni it was to be excluded from an on-going energy project, if it should begin drilling for gas offshore Cyprus.

Yildiz’s comments follow earlier remarks by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who, for the first time in 30 years, said Ankara would consider supporting a two-state solution on the island in order to claim the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the energy reserves.

The Turkish government is very concerned about the fact that South Cyprus continues to use hydrocarbon reserves off the island to overcome its debt crisis without the consent of the Turkish Cypriots. “The Greek Cypriot administration will have to rely on Turkey to export the natural gas it hopes to extract from eastern Mediterranean fields,” Davutoglu said last month.

Yildiz said that as economies became more globalised and countries developed policies to make large projects in the region more tenable, development processes needed careful analysis.

He added that Turkey’s development over the past 10 years including reforms has given his country the opportunity to develop many projects with other countries.

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