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May 15 2019

Cyprus summons British envoy over minister’s EEZ statements

Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry summoned the British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie following statements made Tuesday in the British Parliament by Minister for Europe Alan Duncan on Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported.

Duncan said that the position of the UK was in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and that “exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area in which sovereignty is under dispute.” The minister also said he met with the Turkish ambassador.

Turkey has been in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over the island's exclusive economic zone and drilling hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus has contracted international oil companies to explore for potentially rich sources of gas in its waters and Turkey says the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island should have a share in any proceeds, but the internationally recognised Cypriot government says any wealth will be divided once Cyprus is reunited.

President Nicos Anastasiades blasted Duncan for his remarks, which he said are “'unacceptable.”

Turkish energy exploration near the island is raising tensions as Ankara recently announced plans to send a second drillship to the eastern Mediterranean to look for oil and gas amid an ongoing dispute over the EEZ. 

Turkey’s plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus has been condemned as illegal by the European Union and the United States has also expressed support for Cyprus.

Meanwhile, a briefing by Çağatay Erciyes, acting director general at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, for representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Ankara – including a Greek Embassy official – raised eyebrows after showing maps that violated the sovereign territory of Greece and Cyprus, Kathimerini reported on Wednesday.