Turkey on Saturday welcomed and fully supported Turkish Cypriot president’s proposal on the joint use of hydrocarbon resources with the Greek side.
"We have been informed that TRNC President Mr. Mustafa Akinci has submitted today through UN, a new cooperation proposal of the Turkish Cypriot side to the Greek Cypriots concerning the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon resources around the island of Cyprus. We welcome and fully support this cooperation proposal," Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The proposal aims at creating a cooperation mechanism between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, as the co-owners of the Island on hydrocarbon resources over which they have equal rights. As such, the proposal envisages cooperation including revenue sharing and enables two sides to benefit from hydrocarbon resources simultaneously," it added.
If accepted, the proposal will contribute to the development of peace and cooperation as well as to "create a conducive atmosphere for the settlement of Cyprus question," the ministry said.
Turkey called all interested parties, including the UN, EU and particularly the guarantor states, to take this opportunity by supporting this proposal and to encourage co-operation on the island's hydrocarbon resources.
"We reiterate our firm resolve in protecting the equal rights of the Turkish Cypriots over the off-shore resources of the Island in addition to our country’s own continental shelf rights in the Eastern Mediterranean," the statement said.
"In this respect, we wish to draw the attention of the international community that we will maintain our determined and principled stance in protecting the equal rights of the Turkish Cypriots, until these rights are guaranteed," it added.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched offshore drilling operations this May in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island of Cyprus.
Athens and Greek Cyprus have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting European Union leaders to join their criticism.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
Commenting on the proposal, the spokesman of Turkey's ruling party said the TRNC's move should be appreciated in a world rife with conflict.
Ankara is determined to protect both Turkey's own rights and the TRNC's rights without any compromise, Omer Celik said on Twitter.
He added that Turkey expects the guarantor states and the EU to "support the TRNC's peaceful policy" against the aggressive politics of the Greek Cypriots.
By Busra Nur Bilgic and Faruk Zorlu