The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Turkey's state-owned oil company Turkish Petroleum (TP) will launch a joint natural gas exploration program in the island's southwest region, TRNC Deputy Prime Minister Kudret Özersay said Tuesday.
Özersay, who is also the foreign minister, said the Greek Cypriot administration's opening of tenders for natural gas exploration in the seventh block located in the so-called exclusive economic zone is "unlawful," as it is an attempt to rob the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
"Turkey and the TRNC will not let the Greek Cypriot administration to give the seventh block to foreign companies," Özersay said. "Together with TP, we will do our own research and protect our rights in the seventh block," he added.
There are 12 blocks for natural gas exploration around the south of the island. The relatively small Aphrodite gas field is estimated to hold 127 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The seventh block is one of the blocks located in the "exclusive economic zone" declared unilaterally by the Greek Cypriot Administration. It now wants to invite foreign energy firms for natural gas exploration in the area.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland, under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. The talks collapsed in 2017. Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the failure, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a peace deal. Özersay said that a U.N. military camp in Gazimagusa (Famagusta) province of Northern Cyprus should move to another place as the area has now taken the shape of a bustling downtown and the camp is disturbing local residents. "There are helicopters taking off or landing near this camp. There are helicopters, trucks in the middle of the local residents' living space," Özersay added. He said he had discussed the issue with U.N. officials and was hoping for a positive response from them. The area currently occupied by the camps can be transformed into a city park, he added.