We have learnt from an announcement published in the EU Official Journal dated 11 February 2012 that the Greek Cypriot Administration (GCA) has called for a new international tender for off-shore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation within its so-called exclusive economic zone.
We protest this unilateral step, which is both irresponsible and provocative, taken by the Greek Cypriots despite all warnings.
As it is known, Turkey, together with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) , from the onset, had objected to the GCA’s activities aiming at unilaterally establishing maritime jurisdiction areas, granting off-shore licenses to international oil companies and conducting off-shore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. Equally we had drawn the attention of the international community to the fact that these activities violate the Turkish Cypriots’ equal and inherent rights, contradict the letter and spirit of the current comprehensive settlement negotiations conducted under UN auspices and might lead to the escalation of tension in the region. These views which we have stated time and again remain unchanged.
The announcement of this tender at a time when the UN negotiations have reached a critical and determining stage proves that the Greek Cypriot side totally disregards the equal rights and legitimate interests of the Turkish Cypriots and that they are not willing to share a common future with the Turkish Cypriots and not ready yet for a comprehensive settlement.
Once the concession blocks geographically described in this so-called tender are examined, it appears that certain sections of some of these blocks namely the so-called 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th blocks are overlapping with Turkey’s continental shelf areas in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey, as it was before, will not allow under any circumstances foreign oil companies to conduct unauthorized oil/natural gas exploration and exploitation activities in these overlapping areas and will take all necessary measures to protect its rights and interests in the maritime areas falling within its continental shelf.
The concession blocks identified in this so-called tender not only violate Turkey’s continental shelf, but also overlap, in the south of the island, with the Turkish Cypriot’s concession blocs granted to the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPAO) by the TRNC on 22 September 2011.
This situation would bring those international companies that might be interested in bidding for this illegal tender into confrontation with the TRNC and the TPAO, and thus would lead to an undesired tension in the region. Turkey, in such eventuality, acting upon its responsibilities as a motherland and a guarantor power, will give every support to the TRNC to prevent possible violations of Turkish Cypriot concession blocks and thus to protect their rights and interests in maritime areas.
The two peoples of the Island should benefit together from the off-shore natural resources of the island. These natural resources should be explored and exploited upon the common will and consent of the two sides. If this cannot be achieved, then the so-called concession blocs will remain as disputed areas in terms of their ownership.
Therefore, this issue should either be left to the aftermath of the comprehensive settlement or the two sides should be brought together exclusively on this matter under the auspices of the UN Secretary General so that they could determine jointly the future course of off-shore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities around the island.
Otherwise, unilateral steps to be taken by the Greek Cypriots and subsequent measures in response to these steps to be adopted by the Turkish Cypriots would inevitably lead to an escalation of tension in the region.
In order to prevent such eventuality, we would like to remind once again of the need to implement the proposal made by the President of the TRNC, H.E. Mr. Derviş Eroğlu, on 24 September 2011.
Finally, Turkey calls upon those countries and companies that might be interested in conducting hydrocarbon exploration activities based on the invalid concessions that the GCA might attempt to grant to act with common sense, to take into account the will of the other constituent people of the Island, namely the Turkish Cypriots, and not to take any step which might negatively affect the settlement process of the Cyprus issue, and expect them to act accordingly.