By Murat Demirci and Tevfik Durul
Turkey on Thursday blasted Greek Cyprus' unilateral action on hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the Greek Cypriot administration's activities “disregard the inalienable rights to natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the island.
"We are concerned that the Greek Cypriot administration has decided to invite international companies to the unilaterally delimited so-called license area by ignoring Turkish Cypriots' rights."
On Wednesday, in violation of the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the island’s natural resources, Greek Cyprus invited oil companies to bid on a “license” to explore the area.
"This attitude of the Greek Cypriot side, which does not shrink from irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region, is actually the fundamental reason behind the failure of the Cyprus settlement negotiations to produce an outcome for the past half-century," the ministry added.
At last year's failed conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, the Greek Cypriots again demonstrated their unwillingness to accept a partnership with the Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality, and because of this, the conference ended without a settlement, said the ministry.
According to the statement, Greek Cyprus' activities also violate Turkey's rights to the continental shelf in the region under international law. Major parts of the Greek Cypriot "license" areas lie within the boundaries of Turkey's Eastern Mediterranean region, it said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus said the so-called “License Area Number 7”, or block number 7, is an indication that the Greek Cypriot side is continuing its policies towards usurping the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the island’s natural resources.
The Greek Cypriot side is ignoring Turkish Cypriots' rights and is also violating Turkey's rights to its continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean region, it added.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with Turkey will further its activities related to natural resources to protect their rights and interests around the island of Cyprus, it noted.
In February 2016, the government of the Greek Cypriot administration unilaterally decided to launch a licensing round for a number of blocks on the offshore island.
In total, 12 exploration wells will be drilled in blocks 6, 8 and 10, Greek Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said in 2017.
The status of the island of Cyprus remains unresolved, in spite of a series of UN-mediated discussions between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot administration.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the UK collapsing in 2017.
Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the talks' failure, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a peace deal.