Turkey says drillings will continue if Greek Cypriots do not accept cooperation proposal

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NICOSIA, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said drillings for natural gas off the shores of Cyprus will continue, if the Cypriot government did not accept a proposal to cooperate with Turkish Cypriots on gas management.

Cavusoglu said in an article published by a Turkish Cypriot newspaper on Sunday that Turkish drill ships currently operating off the west and east coast of Cyprus will continue drilling until the Greek Cypriots, who represent the internationally recognized government of the eastern Mediterranean island, accept the proposal by Mustafa Akinci, the Turkish Cypriot leader.

He added that the proposal could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean island.

One Turkish drill ship, called Fatih, is drilling 60 kilometers off the west coast of Cyprus in an area which Turkey says is within its continental shelf. Turkey claims more areas of the sea around Cyprus as being within its own continental shelf.

A second drill ship, the Yavuz, has anchored off the east coast of Cyprus, in an area which Turkey said it was licensed to its state petroleum company, TPAO, by the so-called Turkish Cypriot Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state which was condemned by the United Nations.

Cyprus says both areas are within its exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The proposal made by Akinci on Saturday was handed to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades by an official of the United Nations mission in Cyprus.

Anastasiades said that he called a meeting of political leaders on Tuesday to brief them on the contents of the proposal.

Turkish Cypriot media said on Sunday that the proposal calls for the setting up of a bi-communal committee under the supervision of the United Nations, with the same number of members from each community, to manage hydrocarbon exploration.

It also calls for the setting up of a joint fund to manage proceeds.

Akinci said he wished to discuss the details of his proposal with Anastasiades.

Cypriot government officials have said that accepting the proposal would mean participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the competence of a government they do not recognize. It would also amount to the upgrading of the status of the breakaway state.

Cyprus has said that a similar proposal was presented by the Turkish Cypriots during the Cyprus peace negotiations in 2011, which was turned down at the time and it amounted to a backtracking on an existing agreement.

It also said that the issue had already been settled with an agreement providing that natural gas drilling would come under the jurisdiction of a future federal government and that the proceeds from natural gas drilling will be deposited in a fund already set up and equitably shared between the two communities.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish military operation in reaction to a coup by Greek army officers serving in Cyprus. Its northern part is controlled by Turkish troops and run by a so-called Turkish Cypriot administration.

A meeting of European foreign ministers meeting on Monday is expected to endorse a proposal for sanctions on Turkey for its drilling off Cyprus.

The sanctions include suspension of high level talks between EU and Turkey, of negotiations for an air transport agreement, cuts in pre-accession funding and possibly targeted measures against companies and individuals assisting in Turkey's drilling. Enditem

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