Nicosia wants Turkey to be involved in the energy developments in the region, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has said, adding that Turkey has to first solve the Cyprus problem, otherwise, for Nicosia, the option is not there.

The Minister was speaking at a  roundtable discussion at the 14th Cyprus Summit of The Economist in Nicosia with the title “Energy security and regional conflicts: east Mediterranean in search of stability” that took place with the participation of Iraeli Deputy Minister to the  Prime Minister’s Office, Michael Oren and Kathleen Doherty, US Ambassador to Cyprus.

In his address, Christodoulides said that according to assessments by the US Geological Survey, the total quantities of natural gas in the Levantine Basin and the Nile Cone in the Eastern Mediterranean are estimated to be about 9350 billion cubic meters. In the last decade the discoveries made in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Cyprus, Egypt and Israel are approximately 2500 billion cubic meters.

He said that the annual needs of the EU in natural gas are currently about 540 bcm.

Christodoulides said that the EU supports Cyprusʼs efforts, both by repeatedly stressing its support to the exercise of our sovereign rights in its EEZ but also by participating in the EastMed pipeline project, which the European Commission adopted as a Project of Common Interest.

Referring to the trilateral cooperation partnerships that Cyprus established together with Greece and neighboring countries, he said that the central tenets are that they are inclusive in nature and are not directed against any third country.

‘On the contrary, they are an instrument for promoting cooperation in the region and beyond, and are open to all countries who share the vision, and most importantly, respect international law’ adding ‘we call other neighbouring countries not yet part of this transformative cooperation, to share our vision and join us’.

He pointed out that the added value of this cooperation has drawn the attention of other countries and announcements towards this direction should be expected soon.

Christodoulides said that the cooperation developed in our region can facilitate our efforts to reunite our country through a viable settlement that will allow Cyprus to maintain its role as a stable, reliable honest broker in the region.

‘A pre-requisite for this is that Turkey realizes that it has much more to lose than gain from the current status quo, which prevents Ankara from participating in the web of cooperation in our neighbourhood, and not only’ he stressed.

Christodoulides recalled that Turkey has in the last six months almost on a daily basis been making statements threatening Cyprus and all  those companies participating in the  Cyprus EEZ.

He said that Nicosia will not follow this Turkish approach, saying that ‘ we are very confident on what we do, it is based on international law’.

Nicosia, he said, wants Turkey to be involved in the energy developments in the region but in order to be in a position to examine this possibility Turkey has to solve the Cyprus problem, otherwise, for Nicosia the option is not there.  It is up to Turkey, he said, adding that Ankara has to work to solve the Cyprus issue.

Moreover, he pointed out that the Turkish threats against Cyprus are also threats against Israel, Egypt and Lebanon, since Nicosia has signed agreements with those countries and they are also threats against the EU itself, which is investing in the EastMed pipeline.

‘The problem in our region is Turkey and the question is if we are going to allow Ankara to destroy the prospect of the region. In our case, we want Turkey to be part of this cooperation the the region’ the Cypriot FM.

Asked from the audience why the countries of the region do not invite Turkey to join them in the exploitation of the resources, he noted that Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, ‘so how can they join those joint initiatives? Of course we call upon  Turkey, I call Turkey to start discussing with the Republic of Cyprus for the delimitation of our EEZ, saying  ‘we hope that we will have a positive reaction’.

Replying to another question from the audience about what exactly does it mean that the resources are shared equitably between both communities, he said that we have at least 5 – 6 years until we can talk about profit of hydrocarbons and stressed that equitable does not mean in any way 50 – 50. ‘I want to make this point clear’ the Foreign Minister said.

He also stressed that Turkey’s behaviour in Cyprus EEZ is clearly not aiming to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, but Ankara’s rights.

Asked about the Cyprus – Russia relations, he said that Cyprus is an active member of the EU, playing a crucial role in the formation and implementation of the EU foreign policy and added that there are difficult and challenging relations with Russia but it is important to continue discussions with Russia.

Regarding Brexit, he said that for Cyprus it is important to safeguard the rights of all Cypriots working and residing in the Sovereign British Bases in Cyprus and the full implementation of the acquis.

‘We are very close to an agreement we have an understanding but nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ he said.

Taking the floor, the US Ambassador in Nicosia, said that they see Greece as an anchor of stability in the Mediterranean and Western Balkans, and a key strategic partner of the United States, while they are working purposefully to stabilize the relationship with Turkey and to keep it on a Western track, noting that on a long-term basis, Turkey provides a counterbalance to Iran.
Referring to  Israel, she said it is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats.

As regards Cyprus, she said the US are  strengthening their partnership with the Republic of Cyprus, saying ‘we believe the Republic of Cyprus can play an important part in our shared efforts to counter transnational threats and enhance security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean’.

She reiterated the US position that the Republic of Cyprus has the right to develop and exploit its natural resources, adding that ‘we believe those resources should be shared equitably between both communities in the context of a settlement’.

‘We also believe that military responses to potential commercial disputes are inappropriate’ she stressed.
The Ambassador said that even when deposits are discovered, developing these resources and then selling them will be a matter of years, maybe even a decade away.

‘There is ample time, therefore, for political processes to work before anyone will see financial returns’ she pointed out.
Referring to the  Cyprus issue, she said that the US believes a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation offers the best future.

‘I see a unified Cyprus in 2030 as a robust regional economic power. I see a shipping industry that is in not only in the Top 10, but one of the two or three most important in the world. I see a unified Cyprus with an integrated tourist economy embracing all this incredible island has to offer’ she said and continued ‘add to that a unified and thriving financial sector, widespread English driving a higher education hub for the region, and if energy develops, too…. then suddenly the vision broadens …..And then I could imagine Cyprus as the energy Norway or the financial services’ Singapore of the Eastern Mediterranean’.

She expressed the US strong support towards the trilateral cooperation with Cyprus, Greece and Israel and Cyprus, Greece and Egypt saying that they look forward to continuing deepening of those trilaterals and to support it in whatever way might be appropriate.

She also referred to US investments in Cyprus, saying that American companies have become increasingly active in the energy, insurance, banking and other financial services, franchising, tourism, and tertiary education sectors.
‘American companies in Cyprus have created, directly or indirectly through investments, some 5,000 jobs here. We expect this number to grow’ she pointed out.

Michael Oren referred to the trilateral cooperation between Israel,  Cyprus and Greece, saying that is a cooperation of stability and democracy. He also referred to the EastMed noting that energy can form the foundations for peace in the region.
Noting that not everyone is happy with the strength of this alliance, he expressed Israel’s support and solidarity with Cyprus in exercising its sovereign rights in its EEZ.

He said that Israel has tried in the past to achieve a rapprochement with Turkey but there was no success. This is unfortunate, he said, but noted that this does not mean that in the future Israel will not be open to rapprochement since it is in the interest of all countries in the region to have a peaceful relation with Turkey.

He pointed out that the Cyprus- Israel- Greece relation is vital for western security. Israel, he stressed,  will stand by Cyprus, Greece and other countries in the region in resisting rising threats, which it will try to engage diplomatically but if not, they will stand by one another strategically.

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