By Kyriacos Kyriacou – Nicosia
While the negotiations on resolving the Cyprus problem between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides progress – in a rather worrying slow tempo – Turkey continues to undermine efforts by invading, through air and sea, Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
The latest Turkish provocation has been labeled “Barbaros”, a Turkish vessel, accompanied by an Ankaras’ gunboat, which daily engages in seismic explorations for oil and gas offshore Turkish occupied eastern coastal town of Famagusta. Today the vessel continued its activity, outside marine block 3, which is licensed for exploration by the Cyprus Government to Italian and Korean companies ENI and KOGAS.
Turkish threats justified
The incident is thought to confirm Turkey’s threats, launched after the beginning of the second round of licensing, from the Cyprus Government, for exploration in its exclusive economic zone. Turkey has strongly protested against Cyprus’ energy exploration, branding the moves “illegal” and starting its own exploration drilling off the Turkish occupied northern part of the island. Ankara believes that gas and petrol in the free area should be distributed between Greek Cypriots in the government controlled southern part and Turkish Cypriots leaving in the occupied northern part.
Reports to the EU
According to government sources, the “Barbaros” vessel moves are closely monitored by the Cyprus Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs. Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou has recently stated that the violation of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone is “an extremely provocative action”, which should be reported to the UN and the EU. Other political leaders believe that stronger actions should be taken in order to effectively halt Turkish military provocations.
The return of Varosha
Meantime, Greek Cypriot refugee mayor of Turkish occupied Famagusta Alexis Galanos and Turkish Cypriot so-called mayor of Famagusta Oktay Kayal said that the town of Varosha, modern part of Famagusta, should be returned to its legal citizens within the right framework, speaking after a liturgy at the church of St George in Famagusta, yesterday.
Galanos said efforts were being made to return the town to its legal citizens, adding that the Turkish Cypriots wanted that too. Galanos noted that the return of Famagusta could prove to be a “catalyst” in future developments, adding that one should be positive and move forward.
Asked about the violation of the territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus in block 3 of its exclusive economic zone by Turkish vessel “Barbaros”, Galanos said time would show if Turkey really wanted a solution to the Cyprus problem.
In statements, Kayal said “Famagusta has to be returned to its legal owners,” noting that, “if Famagusta is returned to its legal owners, it should be a contribution to the comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.”
Gas exploration “benefits the solution”
Regarding Turkish ship “Barbaros”, Kayal said he did not have adequate information about its mission, noting that the natural gas in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus should be used to the benefit of both communities and also as an incentive for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.