By AFP – Jul 13,2019 – JORDAN TIMES
NICOSIA — Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Saturday proposed creating a joint committee across the divided Mediterranean island, to address tensions over offshore energy reserves.
The measure aims to “pass the subject of hydrocarbons from an area of tensions and conflicts to an area of productive cooperation”, Akinci said in a note addressed to his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades.
Cyprus is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway state set up after the 1974 Turkish invasion, following a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.
Akinci’s message, which was relayed by a United Nations intermediary, came as Turkey has vowed to continue drilling off Cyprus.
Ankara’s deployment of two ships — the Fatih and Yavuz — to search for oil and gas has sparked a dispute with the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member.
The offshore area where the vessels have been dispatched is part of what the international community recognises as the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus, which has invited Western giants like ExxonMobil and France’s Total to drill in lucrative deals for Nicosia.
Turkey itself granted exploration licences to Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012 and opposes any offshore exploration which excludes the Turkish Cypriot part of the island led by Akinci.
Turkey says its actions abide by international law and that it is drilling inside its own continental shelf.
But its decision to press on with drilling in the EEZ has led to criticism from Egypt, the United States and the European Union, which has threatened sanctions.
The committee proposed by Akinci to resolve the dispute would include representatives of his administration and those of the Republic of Cyprus in equal number.
It would be supervised by the UN with the EU as an observer, according to Saturday’s proposal.
Akinci’s proposal was welcomed in a statement by the Turkish foreign ministry, which said Turkish and Greek Cypriots have “equal rights” over the offshore hydrocarbon resources.