The Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has stated that the European Union cannot stop Turkey from asserting its rights to natural resources in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean.
In an interview with the Russian news outlet Sputnik on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister and presidential candidate Kudret Ozersay said: "Turkey's policy in the region has managed to weaken the position of Greece and Greek Cypriots, who are trying to have their direct influence on both the mainland and the island part of the shelf."
He commented on the recent tensions in the area around the island of Cyprus, which has been split between its northern Turkish side and its southern Greek side since 1974, saying that the view that the activities involving Northern Cyprus benefits only Turkey is false. "Türkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortaklığı, the company to which we have granted the exploration license, is not operating on behalf of Turkey, but on behalf of the TRNC. Greek Cypriots, who ignore this fact, persistently try to present Turkey as an 'aggressor' and 'occupant'," Ozersay insisted.
This, he stated, is part of an attempt to form misconceptions about Turkey's aims and actions to EU member states in order to try to turn them against Turkey.
To increase stability in the region – particularly in Cyprus – and ensure the interests of all sides are met and satisfied, Ozersay said that the solution "lies in the establishment of cooperation on specific points. The most striking example is natural gas. An agreement on gas exploration and production should be reached as soon as possible. This kind of phased cooperation will ensure stability in the region." In his view, this should involve direct negotiations between Turkey and Egypt regarding the disputes over natural gas in and energy reserves in the waters of the East Mediterranean.
Throughout much of the last year, tensions in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean have increased significantly due to Turkey's dispute with Southern Cyprus over the distribution of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, in which the Turkish drilling vessels have been sent in search for natural gas in the waters off the island of Cyprus in recent months.
Turkey's deployment of the drilling vessels since June was in retaliation for a deal struck by Greece, Southern Cyprus and Israel earlier that month, in which the three states agreed to build a pipeline harnessing the reserves of natural gas off the southern shores of the island. This pipeline named EastMed, which is estimated to produce a profit of $9 billion over 18 years of the reserve's exploitation, would be supplying gas from the Eastern Mediterranean region all the way to countries in Europe.
Turkey has called on those countries to participate in a fair and equal distribution of the energy resources discovered off Cyprus, insisting that they are attempting to exclude and alienate Turkey by striking their own deal without the consideration of both the major regional player and the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Therefore, it stresses that the drilling activities that Turkey is carrying out are legal and within territorial waters.
The EU, however, has repeatedly called on Turkey to give up its claim on having a share in the energy resources, claiming that its activities are "illegal", leading the Union to impose sanctions on the Republic in July last year over the issue, as well as due to Turkey's military incursion – Operation Peace Spring – into northern Syria in October.
Ozersay said that this has proven the EU to be heavily biased towards southern Cyprus and Greece in the regional dispute, citing the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell's recent creation of new sanctions on Turkish figures and businesses, which are to be reportedly implemented. "For that reason, we do not see the EU as a reliable or neutral player in resolving the Cyprus or gas issue, since Brussels, following its internal principles, will continue to support the Greek side," he noted.