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President Christofias Addresses Second Letter to UNSG Ban Ki-moon Over Turkish Provocative Actions; Minister of Commerce Says Cyprus Will Continue Surveys
2008-12-08 11:04:09

Nicosia, Dec 3 – President Demetris Christofias has sent a second letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon referring to the continued harassment of research vessels by Turkish warships in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus

The full text of the letter is as follows:

“Subsequent to my letter of 14 November 2008, at least three serious incidents took place involving the harassment of research vessels by Turkish warships in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus. I find myself in the unpleasant position of expressing my dismay over the continuation of such aggressive actions.

On 19 November, two vessels, Harrier Explorer and Marja, were performing oceanographic work within the EEZ south of the coast of Cyprus. After being harassed by the Turkish corvette Bandirma they were obliged to change location. On 21 November, two Turkish warships harassed the cargo ship Aquarius G, which is involved in the research, by repeatedly blocking its course until it was forced to return to Cypriot territorial waters. Again, on 24 November, the Turkish frigate Gemlik approached Harrier Explorer and Aqarius G and repeated the harassment by blocking the exploratory vessels’ route, forcing them into dangerous maneuvers.

Despite several attempts by the captain of Harrier Explorer to contact the Turkish captain over the radio, there was no response. Furthermore, the Turkish naval force is constantly stationed within a short distance from the research vessels observing their actions and movements.

The continuation of these incidents, I am sad to observe, unavoidably impacts negatively on our efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the Cyprus problem. On my part, I am doing everything in my power to protect the process of negotiations and to bring it to a positive conclusion. It is important, at the same time, that the United Nations and the international community support these efforts through effective solidarity.”

In addition, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Paschalides said the Republic of Cyprus will continue its exploratory surveys for hydrocarbon reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Minister, who met in Nicosia Thursday Syrian Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Sufian Al-Alao, stressed that Cyprus will not stop its research program, noting that this constitutes Cyprus’s sovereign rights.

The issue of Turkish harassments and Cyprus’s protest to the UN in this respect was discussed during the Ministers’ meeting. Other issues discussed during the meeting were the delimitation of the EEZ between Cyprus and Syria, as well as their cooperation in the fields of oil industry and natural gas.

Commenting on the issue of Turkish harassments, the Syrian Minister said “we shall raise the viewpoint of our Cyprus friends to our government and we hope to find a solution for everything.”

Asked if Syria is restraint in its cooperation with Cyprus in the light of Turkey's reaction, the Syrian Minister replied “no, we cooperate with Cyprus and we are friends with Turkey and we hope to seek the benefits of the two peoples and all the peoples that are in this area.”

The Cypriot Minister stressed that Cyprus’s “exploration program continues,” adding “we are exercising the Republic of Cyprus’s sovereign rights, we will not stop, nor will we give our rights to anyone.”

He added that the Norwegian company, which is conducting a survey in Cyprus’s EEZ and was harassed by Turkish warships, continues its survey, and is accountable to the Republic of Cyprus with which she has a contract.

The Cypriot Minister expressed hope that in the next few months the second round of licensing will begin to grant license for hydrocarbon exploration and development licenses, saying that that round is considered to be very important.

“We are optimistic that big companies from many countries will show an interest” he said.

Asked how close Cyprus is to negotiating with an American company on one of the research plots and if they have concluded a deal, he said “an official announcement will be made soon, we are close.”

The Syrian Minister said that during the meeting they discussed issues concerning the oil industry, especially the exploration and cooperation “because we are two countries in the Mediterranean and we have the same shores and we hope to find good reserves for oil and natural gas in the Mediterranean.”

“The area is promising and in our exploration and cooperation we shall of course find solutions, more technical and financial possibilities to explore oil and gas,” the Syrian Minister said.

He added that they discussed future cooperation for natural gas transportation to Cyprus, as well as “export and import of products, cooperation in the field of training and exchange of experience and studies, research and also mineral resources, exploration and organization.”

“We hope this visit will make good progress for our relationship between the two countries with long history, two peoples,” he said.

Regarding the delimitation of the EEZ between Cyprus and Syria, the Syrian Minister said that the matter is being discussed by the competent authorities, adding the Prime Minister of Syria was in Cyprus one month ago and discussed this matter, and “we hope to reach an agreement at a suitable time.”

In his statements, the Cypriot Minister said that they exchanged views on issues concerning natural gas and oil exploration and cooperation between the two states in these fields.

He also said they discussed the delimitation of their EEZ, noting that “we hope very soon to settle that issue.”

The Syrian Minister held a meeting later on with Director of the Energy Department of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Solon Kassinis.

In his statements, Mr. Kassinis said that the Mediterranean area is “one of the strongest areas for hydrocarbon reserves after the Golf of Mexico.”

Regarding the possibility to reach an agreement with an American company for one of the plots, Mr. Kassinis said that if hydrocarbon reserves are found in that area, the Republic of Cyprus will conclude an agreement with the American company which will provide for a license for 25 years extraction, with a renewal of ten more years.

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