Talks to reunite Cyprus cannot resume while Turkey blockades the Saipem 12000 drillship offshore the island, South Cyprus officials have said.
President Nicos Anastasiades met UN special representative Elizabeth Spehar in Nicosia to raise the issue and discuss next steps after the peace talks collapsed in Switzerland last summer.
“The president again conveyed, that depending on developments, he is ready to take more concrete initiatives provided we are not experiencing such behaviour in the republic’s exclusive economic zone,” the south’s government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told reporters.
“You can not hold negotiations and at the same time have such movements in the EEZ,” Christodoulides added.
Spehar said that Anastasiades “expressed his concerns with respect to what is happening with the hydrocarbons issue. These are concerns that we understand and which we are conveying to New York.”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” in the eastern Mediterranean after Turkish warships blocked the Italian drilling vessel.
The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the region risks further complicating stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus.
Italy’s energy giant ENI said its ship had been ordered to stop by Turkish ships last week over “military activities in the destination area” as it was on course to commence exploring in bloc 3 of Cyprus’ EEZ.
Nicosia said Wednesday that it is counting on behind-the-scenes European Union diplomacy to end the standoff with Turkey.
Turkey and Cyprus have disputed maritime rights regarding the eastern Mediterranean for a long time, and Ankara has rigorously defended the claims of Turkish Cypriots to a share of the area’s energy resources.
Further drilling operations on behalf of South Cyprus are scheduled with US giant ExxonMobil in the second half of 2018.