Turkey will drill for gas in East Med until Greek Cypriots accept plan, Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu says

Turkey will continue its activities in Eastern unless there is a cooperation between and Greek Cypriots, the Turkish foreign minister said on Sunday. Mevlüt Çavuşoglu penned an article for Turkish Cypriot daily news the Cyprus Post [Kıbrıs Postası] and made assessments on the latest developments related to the Cyprus issue, the negotiation process with the Greek Cypriots and .

Turkey will continue drilling for gas in waters off Cyprus if the Greek Cypriot government does not accept a cooperation proposal put forward by Turkish Cypriots, Ankara's foreign minister said on Sunday.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said a proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı that both parties on the divided island cooperate in and exploitation of gas could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern .

The dispute stems from overlapping claims to regional waters by Turkey and Cyprus, linked to the 45-year-old split of the island and Ankara's rejection of agreements Cyprus has reached with other Mediterranean states on maritime economic zones.

In an article for the Cyprus Post, Çavuşoğlu said that until Greek Cypriots adopt the proposals set out by Akıncı on Saturday to work with , Turkey would continue operations in areas where Turkish Cypriot authorities have licensed it to work "with determination and without change".

Turkey's Fatih ship started drilling off western Cyprus in May. A second drilling ship, Yavuz, arrived off the northeastern coast last week.

Çavuşoğlu said: "Greek Cypriots violently hijacked the Republic of Cyprus in 1963, which was established by the 1960 Treaties and based upon a partnership between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, on the basis of political equality."

The negotiation processes carried out under the auspices of the United Nations since 1968 have failed Because of the intransigent attitude of the Greek Cypriot side, he said, adding, the latest negotiation process, the Conference on Cyprus, closed without an outcome in Crans Montana in July 2017.

"The main reason for the failure of these negotiations is that the Greek Cypriot side refuses to share power with the Turkish Cypriots," the top Turkish diplomat said.

However, there has been no change in the attitude of the Greek Cypriot side since the closure of the Conference on Cyprus, he added.

"We have been emphasizing that in order to restart negotiations it should be determined in advance what will be negotiated, in which direction and within the framework of which modalities. We do not consider it beneficial to engage in a new open-ended exercise with no clear vision or purpose, and to start negotiations for the sake of negotiating."

"We are face to face with a Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) that makes full use of all the advantages of EU membership and sees itself as the sole owner of the Island," Çavuşoğlu said adding the Greek Cypriots are "willing to share neither the political power nor the natural resources of the Island."

Çavuşoğlu said that the GCASC is undermining both Turkish Cypriots' rights on the resources and Turkey's rights from its continental shelf registered with the United Nations.

Greek Cypriots claim that they preserve Turkish Cypriots' share to be given them following the settlement but "it is not acceptable for neither us nor the Turkish Cypriots that the Turkish Cypriots would leave their rights after a solution which has been prevented by the Greek Cypriots," said Çavuşoğlu.

Çavuşoğlu stated that it is wrong to associate Turkey's use of continental shelf rights with Cyprus issue.

"We continue our exploration and drilling activities within the areas -where we have registered our continental shelf rights both geographically and legally before the UN as of 2014- in which our Government granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012," he said.

On the other hand, Turkey gives its full support to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to protect its rights, under the international law, as the co-owners of the Island, Çavuşoğlu said.

"Our activities where the Turkish Cypriot Government granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum in 2011 falls within this context. Our drilling vessel Yavuz and seismic vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa are conducting their activities in these areas," he added.

"Unless Greek Cypriots would go for a cooperation, which includes a joint decision making mechanism with Turkish Cypriots -the equal partner of the Island, and unless a cooperative mechanism would be established as envisaged in the proposal dated July 13, Turkey will resolutely continue its activities, without a pause, within the areas where the TRNC granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum."

TRNC President on Saturday submitted a new cooperation proposal of the Turkish Cypriot side to the Greek Cypriots, through the UN, concerning the exploration and exploitation of around the island of Cyprus.

The proposal foresees that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, as equal partners of the island, should cooperate on the hydrocarbon resources to which they have equal rights, including income sharing and benefit from these resources.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the , asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.

Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.

The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched offshore drilling operations this May in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island of Cyprus.

Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships' crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.

In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus' annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.

The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.

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