Turkish Cyprus has announced that it will offer Greek Cyprus to jointly establish a committee that will deal with a dispute ongoing between the two countries over hydrocarbon drilling in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar made the announcement to the reporters following a meeting with President Mustafa Akıncı on July 11, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said, citing Turkish Agency Cyprus (TAK).
Tatar said that he and Akıncı had decided on the Turkish Cypriot administration to ask for the establishment of a joint commission to the Greek Cypriot side regarding both parties’ gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tatar also said that, apart from that topic, they also talked about the issue of migrants and the attacks undertaken in the Greek Cypriot side against Turkish firms’ buses, with the most recent one happening last week.
Tatar told the reporters that they will write an official letter to the Greek Cypriot management regarding this issue and condemn the incident.
Tatar also said that there have been many Syrians coming to Turkish Cyprus from Turkey. He said that a group of Syrians currently at Ercan Airport were sent back to Turkey on July 10 after arriving on Turkish Cyprus about a month ago.
Turkish Cypriot media had reported on July 10 that the group had consisted of 51 Syrians. Tatar said that they had put the visa policy for Syrians in effect and no longer would Syrians be able to come to Turkish Cyprus either on ferries or airplanes unless they had visas.
Tatar also recalled that two Turkish ships, named Fatih and Yavuz, were undertaking drilling activities in the region. He said that the Turkish Cypriot people also had the right to the “wealth around the island of Cyprus.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on July 10 issued a statement saying it would continue defending the rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean unless they were included in the decision-making processes on hydrocarbon resources.
The statement underlined that Turkey’s second drill ship in the region, Yavuz, would operate on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots within the license areas granted by Turkish Cyprus to the Turkish Petroleum company in 2011.
It added that Yavuz had been deployed south of the Karpas peninsula on the eastern edge of the island.
Since last spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels to the eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus to the resources of the region.
The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih began offshore drilling operations last May in an area approximately 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off Cyprus’s western coast.
Athens and Greek Cypriots both opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, asserting that Turkish Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area.
The statement by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry underlined that the Greek Cypriot administration had become a member of the EU in a manner against international law, thus “destabilizing the eastern Mediterranean together with Greece for years.”
The ministry said being a member of the EU and “allegedly representing the entire Island” did not give the Greek Cypriot administration the right to usurp the legitimate rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots.
Rejecting the statements made by the Greek Foreign Ministry and EU officials declaring Turkey’s “aforementioned activities as illegal,” the ministry voiced concern that the statement did not mention the Turkish Cypriots “whose rights have been usurped since 1963” and their existence ignored on the Island.
“The European Union has become an actor of this play of unlawfulness staged by the Greek Cypriot-Greek partnership against the rights of the Turkish Cypriots who are the co-owners of the island,” the ministry said.
It stressed that the EU would not be able to assume the role of an honest broker in the negotiation processes towards the settlement of the Cyprus issue.