Cyprus gas can be blessing or curse, says negotiator
Turkish-Cypriot chief negotiator Ergun Olgun has urged the Greek-Cypriot side to abandon insistence on unilateralism

Oil and gas reserves off Cyprus can hold benefits or risks for the region depending on how the issue is handled, according to Turkish-Cypriot chief negotiator.

"The only way to manage the issue properly is through cooperation. Only through cooperation this issue can be resolved for the benefit of both Cyprus and the region," Mustafa Ergun Olgun told The Anadolu Agency on Friday.

Talks to reunify the island have remained stalled.

The Greek-Cypriot administration unilaterally launched exploratory drilling activities for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean despite strong opposition from the Turkish-Cypriot side, which argued that the island's natural resources should be exploited jointly in a manner ensuring that the equal and inherent rights of the both peoples over the natural resources were not undermined.

In October 2014, the reunification talks were unilaterally suspended by the Greek-Cypriot side after Turkey issued a Navtex (navigational telex) on behalf of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for seismic research off the coast of Cyprus.

"This is what we have been trying to explain to the international community: the hydrocarbons issue can be a blessing or a curse," said Olgun, adding that negotiations were the only platform for settlement of any dispute.

He warned that the Greek-Cypriot move to suspend the negotiations and insistence on unilateralism ran the risk of increasing instability in the region and scaring away foreign investment.

"Such an eventuality is in no one’s interest and can end up in a lose-lose situation," he said.

- Alliance-building against Turkey "dangerous”

The Greek-Cypriot side is also in pursuit of forming a regional alliance with Israel and Egypt, both of which have seen worsening of relations with Turkey in recent years.

The Greek, Greek-Cypriot and Egyptian leaders signed an agreement in Cairo last November to boost energy cooperation.

Olgun warned that the Greek-Cypriot efforts to form a "regional bloc against Turkey and Turkish Cypriots are very dangerous for the region, as such efforts only serve to create new polarizations, new conflict zones and new rivalries."

He stressed that the dispute in Cyprus was not a violent conflict and that they sought to reach a comprehensive settlement through negotiations and dialogue in a region plagued by instability.

He said the solution of the Cyprus issue through dialogue and cooperation would also serve as a model for the region if two different ethnic groups overcome their differences without resorting to violence.

"In order to attain this, the Greek-Cypriot side must abandon unilateral initiatives and agree to collaborate with the Turkish-Cypriot side for ensuring the welfare and security of both peoples of the island," he said.

"If they continue to take steps to consolidate the status-quo and overlook the legitimate rights and interests of the other side, it will not be possible to realize unity in Cyprus."

He said that influential EU countries, in particular the U.K., should send "the right messages" to the Greek-Cypriot side that would encourage a compromise deal in Cyprus.

"The U.K. has bases in Cyprus and is a guarantor state. (...) What it guaranteed in 1960 was a state of affairs based on partnership of two equal sides. Now it needs to take steps to ensure that such a partnership is re-established in Cyprus," Olgun said.

Since the collapse of the joint government in 1963, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have been striving to find a comprehensive settlement to renew their partnership. The island has been divided into a Turkish-Cypriot administration in the northern third and a Greek Cypriot one in the southern two-thirds after a military coup by Greece in 1974 was followed by the intervention of Turkey as a guarantor power in Cyprus.

Last Modified: 2015-01-11 17:41:52
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