Cyprus protests UK gov't minister's statements about "disputed" zone

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NICOSIA, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus has made an angry demarche to the United Kingdom over an "unfortunate" statement by a government minister to the effect the Cypriot exclusive economic zone was under dispute, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said on Wednesday.

"The High Commissioner (ambassador) of the United Kingdom has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in order to make the necessary representations for the unfortunate statements made by the deputy minister," Prodromou said.

He added that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades would address a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May over the statements by Minister of State in charge of Europe and Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, in parliament.

Replying to a call by an MP in the Commons to condemn Turkish actions in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, Duncan said: "According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, exploratory drilling cannot be conducted in any area in which the sovereignty is disputed."

Anastasiades replied with an angry statement that "Mr Duncan has been and continues to remain unacceptable ... He has done it before, his is now doing it again."

"His whole position does not reflect the correct policy that should be followed by Great Britain, given all the interests it has in Cyprus, and the support Britain has received by Cyprus in these critical times it is going through, even if it is from our small country, which, however, has the same vote (in the European Union) as the others," Anastasiades said.

Turkey has announced its intention to start an exploratory drilling for natural gas and has sent a drilling ship just 56 nautical miles off the western coast of Cyprus.

The area has not been demarcated officially, as Turkey refuses to speak to Cyprus, but the eastern Mediterranean island has notified the United Nations on the limits of its exclusive economic zone in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea.

Turkey, which controls the northern part of the island, does not recognize Cyprus as a state, though Cyprus is a member of the UN and the European Union, and claims that there is no Cypriot exclusive economic zone.

However, several international energy companies, among them U.S. ExxonMobil and Nobble Energy, France's Total and Italy's Eni are active in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone and have already discovered sizeable fields of natural gas.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that his country's actions are taking place within the Turkish continental shelf and in areas licensed by the so-called Turkish State of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway entity condemned by the United Nations Security Council as illegal.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974, when Turkey intervened militarily following a coup by Athens-backed Greek Cypriots. Numerous reunification talks between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots have failed.

UN-led negotiations since 1976 have failed to produce a solution to the problem. The UN is currently engaged in consultations with the parties involved to obtain their consent for the resumption of negotiations. Enditem

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