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'If diplomacy fails, TRNC will do its own drilling'

IF DIPLOMACY FAILS, TRNC WILL DO ITS OWN DRILLING

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) deputy prime minister and foreign minister said Thursday they were open to dialogue on the hydrocarbon search around the island, but if this was not possible, they would do their own drilling just like the Greek Cypriots.

"We are open to dialogue on this. We are keeping the diplomacy channels open," Kudret Özersay told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

Özersay recalled that Greek Cypriots issued permits to more than one company for drilling activities around the island.

"TRNC will also engage in drilling and related activities to be carried out via a company that it will authorize in the near future," Özersay said.

He said if Greek Cypriots were not ready to share the natural gas resources, a new Cyprus talks process would lead them nowhere.

The TRNC foreign minister said the natural resources around the island of Cyprus belonged to both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

"On this issue, Greek Cypriots as well as the international actors have a controversial standing," he said.

Özersay said Greek Cypriots recognized the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the resources but only after achieving a solution to the Cyprus issue.

"But it is time to decide: having talks for the sake of having talks is a not a good thing. Talks are a means to an end. For almost 50 years, we have had a negative experience that locked the Turkish Cypriot community in a process of negotiations," he said.

He also noted that Turkish Cypriots repeatedly announced that they would not allow Greek Cypriots to take unilateral steps on hydrocarbon activities.

"However, they are trying to create the problem that recently occurred in regard to the Italian ENI company now over other companies," Özersay said.

"I believe we will soon enter a period when everyone will see that nothing can be done in the region without first having the consent of the Turkish Cypriot people."

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. collapsing in 2017.

Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the talks' 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.
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