Turkey signed Wednesday an accord with northern Cyprus to explore oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean in response to a decision by Greek Cypriots to press on with drilling, Anatolia news agency said.The Cypriot government deplored the move, with spokesman Stephanos Stephanou accusing Turkey of violating international law, in a statement from New York where he is attending the UN General Assembly.
Despite a call from EU to desist, Turkey signed the continental shelf limitation agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a statelet only recognized by Ankara, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and TRNC President Dervis Eroglu signed the agreement, Anatolia said.Under the agreement, Turkey may also explore energy sources off the southern coast of the island, if it considers necessary, news channel NTV said. Such a decision may fuel more tension with the Greek Cypriots.
"Turkish Cypriots have their right on all underwater resources around the island of Cyprus... As we have this right, we will take such steps when it is necessary," TRNC President Dervis Eroglu told NTV, when asked if offshore exploration will be made off the southern coast.
"This agreement we signed today with the Republic of Turkey is a precautionary measure to make our Greek counterparts desist," Anatolia quoted Eroglu as saying during the signature ceremony.
Turkish energy ministry will forbid energy companies exploring offshore deposits for Greek Cyprus government to work in Turkey, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said as well.
Some "sanctions" would be applied to those companies, he said.
But government spokesman Stephanou said the agreement is "another violation of the international law," the Cyprus News Agency reported.
"Turkey has committed another violation... by signing an agreement with an illegal entity, such as the pseudo-state, which has been condemned by UN resolutions," Stephanou said.
"With this violation Turkey tries to obstruct the Republic of Cyprus from exercising a self-evident right, recognised by the whole of the international community," he added.
Turkey has repeatedly called on Cyprus to postpone its gas exploration, saying the Greek side has no right for offshore energy search, while the island remains split, thus leaving the Turkish north out of the picture.The Greek Cypriot government, recognised internationally but not by Turkey, has made a deal with US energy firm Noble, which has started exploratory drilling for gas off the southern coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
Turkey on Monday threatened to start its own oil and gas exploration with military escort in the eastern Mediterranean in retaliation to the Greek Cypriot government.Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.