State Department supports Cyprus' offshore drilling within its EEZ
The United States government has made it clear that Cyprus has the sovereign right to explore and exploit its natural resources, following representations by Nicosia regarding earlier statements by a State Department spokesperson who had indicated that UN mediation would be welcomed regarding revenue sharing from possible oil reserves.
Washington officials pointed out that securing energy supplies is a positive development and noted that increased energy supply from Cyprus would also be positive.
These remarks came in the wake of statements and counter-statements by Cyprus, Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots, the U.S. and others,regarding Cyprus' offshore drilling, by an American company for oil and natural gas reserves off Cyprus’ southeastern coast, within the Republic’s exclusive economic zone.
State Department Spokesperson, Victoria Nuland stated, on Wednesday, that the U.S. “is interested in the proposal for UN mediation of revenue-sharing” and called for the “de-escalation of the tension and rhetoric” on both sides, as well as a renewal of the parties' commitment to the “UN process for Cyprus reconciliation”.
Mrs. Nuland's statement followed the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer's comment on Tuesday that “if the two sides (Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot) came together and asked us to play some sort of mediating role (in the controversy), the Secretary General would have a look at that and we’d discuss it and look at what we could do.”
Mr.Downer’s statement sparked a reaction in Cyprus where both the government and the political parties condemned the statement by stating that the United Nations' role is to facilitate the peace talks and not to mediate them.
Ambassador Anastasiades sought clarifications regarding Mrs. Nuland’s statements, at which point Washington reiterated its position that Cyprus has a sovereign right to explore and exploit its natural resources, adding that there would be a “correction” on Mrs. Nuland’s initial statement.
During the State Department’s Regular Briefing on Wednesday, Nuland was asked questions about the presence of a Turkish seismic research ship close to Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone where the American company “Noble Energy” is drilling for oil reserves.
Asked to comment on whether Washington will raise the issue to the Turkish government and how it views the tension in the region, she said that “we continue to support the UN-led mediation on Cyprus, and we discourage any rhetoric or action that could negatively affect a peaceful settlement”.
She went on to say that “there has recently been a request for the UN to engage in some sort of mediation on a revenue-sharing agreement for natural gas developed off Cyprus, and we understand that the UN is considering that request, and we would consider that it would be quite constructive if the two communities could begin to work on deescalating tensions in a way similar to that”.
Mrs. Nuland added that the United States “want to see a peaceful settlement of this issue under UN mediation" and "want to see the island’s resources shared between the communities."
Asked whether there is any difference between the UN's, EU's and U.S.' approach to the matter, Mrs. Nuland stated that “if there is a dispute reconciliation resolution mechanism that could be agreed on by all concerned parties, that would ensure that the communities were able to share the resources. That would be something that we would be supportive of. But again, we’re pleased to see that people are talking about resolving this dispute peacefully, deescalating the rhetoric, and more generally, putting our energy into supporting the UN process for Cyprus reconciliation."