Chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ergun Olgun has said that the Greek Cypriot government has jeopardised the delicate peace process between the two long-divided sides by pursuing “hegemony” over oil and gas exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean, ‘Washington Times’ reports.
“The moment of truth has come,” Olgun told the newspaper, asserting that Greek Cypriot political leaders must decide “whether they want power-sharing with Turkish Cypriots or to be the masters of their land only.”
While talks between the two had appeared to gain historic momentum early last year, the process effectively broke down during recent months amid disagreement over rights to explore for oil and gas in South Cyprus’ EEZ.
Greek Cypriot officials suspended the talks in October, citing “aggressive” moves by Turkey to support Turkish Cypriot exploration in areas where the Greek Cypriot government had already signed its own licensing deals with foreign companies to explore for hydrocarbons.
Olgun refuted such assertions during a visit to Washington last week.
In an interview with the ‘Washington Times’, he claimed the Turkish Cypriot side simply wants “inclusion” in the ongoing exploration activities, and that it is, in fact, the Greek Cypriots who have endangered the peace process by freezing the Turkish Cypriots out of the licensing deals.
In addition to contracting the U.S-based Noble Energy Inc. to search for oil and gas off the island’s south coast, the Greek Cypriot government is said to be in talks with Israel and Greece over plans for a major pipeline that would eventually transport liquid natural gas to the EU — a plan that appeared to go out of its way to exclude Turkey.
According to Olgun, the Greek Cypriot side is essentially “trying to claim and, in fact, coerce the [Turks] to accept its hegemony.”
“Cooperation on the hydrocarbons issue is a must,” he said. “By claiming they have the single sovereign rights to exploit this resource, the Greek-Cypriots are blocking that cooperation, first with the Turkish-Cypriots and through that with Turkey.”
His remarks painted a pessimistic picture compared with hopes on both sides of the divide last year, for the potential reunification of the island.