By Murat Demirci
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Turkish exploration ships will soon begin offshore drilling activities around Cyprus island, the economy and energy minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said on Wednesday.
"We will protect the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots and take the necessary steps on the issue of natural gas, just as we do on other issues," Ozdil Nami told Anadolu Agency, adding that Turkish actions would remain within the frame of international agreements.
Nami added that the TRNC is always ready for energy cooperation with the Greek Cypriot administration.
Stressing that TRNC holds claims over hydrocarbon reserves in the vicinity of the eastern Mediterranean island, Nami noted that a UN report as well as statements from the U.S. required both communities’ rights be protected with regard to the use of resources.
Nami added that Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiadis' proposal to reserve TRNC’s share of hydrocarbon income in a fund until a solution is found to Cyprus issue was "irrational and illogical."
"Turkey is the easiest, most economical and fastest route in transporting natural gas extracted in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe,” Nami said, underlining Turkey’s "enormous" energy transportation infrastructure.
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after an Enosis-inspired 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish people, and Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power.
Reunification talks brokered by the UN's Special Envoy on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide were launched in May 2015 to discuss a permanent settlement for the divided Mediterranean island.
The status of the island remains unresolved in spite of a series of discussions that resumed in May 2015.
Despite the disputed status, the Greek Cypriot administration continued to unilaterally open new tenders for hydrocarbon explorations without any collaboration with the Turkish Cypriots.