Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said Turkey wants hydrocarbon resources around the island of Cyprus to move from being a matter of conflict and debate to an area that will contribute to peace and prosperity.
Dönmez's remarks came yesterday during his visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), where he was received by TRNC President Mustafa Akıncı and met with Prime Minister Ersin Tatar.
Dönmez said contacts between Turkey and the TRNC on energy have been ongoing for a long time, adding that economic cooperation has continued to increase with an aim to contribute to supply security.
"We have repeatedly stated that we will side with the rights and interest of our fellow citizens living in the TRNC. We have already stated that we do not accept the unilateral steps of the Greek Cypriot administration and it seeing itself as the sole owner and ruler of the island," the minister noted.
Dönmez also pointed to President Akıncı's proposal presented through the United Nations earlier last month, calling for the joint use of Cypriot resources and cooperation between the two sides in the search for gas off the island.
Ankara welcomed and fully supported the proposal, saying it envisages cooperation, including revenue sharing, and enables the two sides to benefit from hydrocarbon resources simultaneously. Ankara also called on the U.N., the EU and particularly the guarantor states to take the opportunity to encourage cooperation on the island's hydrocarbon resources.
However, the Greek Cypriots rejected the offer, saying in a statement that the proposal was far from the essence of the Cyprus problem and could not be accepted because it contained elements that did not serve their interests.
On the contrary, Dönmez said, "The proposal made last month was extremely appropriate. We support the evaluation of natural resources through a joint committee," adding that they hoped the Greek Cypriot side would reconsider their decision.
"I hope the other party will approach your proposal positively. We believe the natural resources are an important factor that would contribute to peace and prosperity on the island and not conflict. I would like to express that we as the Republic of Turkey are ready to contribute to these negotiations in case of need," Dönmez added.
Turkey currently has three ships in the Eastern Mediterranean, including two drilling vessels, the Yavuz and Fatih, and one seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin. The country announced last month it will send a fourth ship, the Oruç Reis, to the Eastern Mediterranean to conduct seismic research for oil and gas around Cyprus. Dönmez said earlier the Oruç Reis would be sent to the Mediterranean after completing its activities in the Marmara Sea.
The minister emphasized that the Yavuz and the Fatih were conducting activities within the areas granted by the TRNC.
Turkey has made continuous efforts to protect its sovereign rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where it has been drilling in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which was registered with the United Nations in 2004.
It has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that the Turkish Cypriots also have rights to resources in the area.