Cyprus urges Turkey to cooperate on energy, but peace first

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus is ready to work with Turkey on exploiting the east Mediterranean’s potential oil and gas wealth, as long as the ethnically split island nation is reunified, the country’s president said Friday.

Big gas reserves have been found around Cyprus and the country, which is a member of the European Union, is already working with Egypt and Israel. Turkey says it’s entitled to its share of any potential gas reserves and has launched a search of its own. But Nicos Anastasiades insisted that the prerequisite for joining this regional energy cooperation will have to be the reunification of Cyprus, which has been split since 1974.

“We continue to upgrade our energy cooperation with countries in the eastern Mediterranean and in Europe and certainly, I underscore this, with Turkey in the event of a Cyprus settlement,” Anastasiades told a conference Friday.

Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said Turkey’s threats against Cyprus’ own energy search won’t draw Cyprus into a discussion disputing its sovereign rights. He said the Cypriot government also called on Turkey to negotiate the demarcation of the two countries’ sea borders.

“We want Turkey to be part of this cooperation, we prefer to have excellent relations with our neighbors, but it’s up to Turkey ...The problem in the region is Turkey,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty said the U.S. supports Cyprus’ right to develop and exploit its natural resources and believes “military responses to potential commercial disputes are inappropriate.”