Turkey on Thursday accused Cyprus of taking “dangerous” steps in its search for energy resources in the Mediterranean, two weeks after crunch talks aimed at reunifying the divided island collapsed.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim visited the Turkish-controlled breakaway statelet of northern Cyprus to mark the 43rd anniversary of Turkey’s July 20 invasion that led to the island’s division.
Negotiations between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders to reunify the island broke down in Switzerland on July 6 after the United Nations failed to broker a compromise deal.
The talks had been given added focus by the growing importance of energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, in particular around Cyprus.
Turkey argues that breakaway northern Cyprus has rights to any reserves discovered and is anxiously eyeing moves by the Greek Cypriot, internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus to discover and exploit them.
“Turkey believes the energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean are an opportunity but the one-sided steps taken by the Greek Cypriot side are untimely, dangerous and encouraging the lack of a solution,” Yildirim said at a ceremony in Nicosia, quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned global companies to stay away from any energy deal with the Greek Cypriots or lose Ankara’s friendship.
In a written message to mark the anniversary, Erdogan accused the Greek Cypriot side of showing an “uncompromising attitude” in the peace talks, in contrast to the “good intentions” of the Turkish Cypriot side.
“Because of this, the (talks) unfortunately ended without results and no solution has been reached in the negotiation process,” he said.
Erdogan said that Turkey, which has tens of thousands of troops stationed in northern Cyprus, would continue to support the Turkish Cypriots and be a “guarantor” of peace in the region.
In response to the gas exploration and drilling, Turkey has dispatched a frigate into international waters to the southwest of Cyprus to monitor operations.
Turkish troops on July 20, 1974 invaded Cyprus’s northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Northern Cyprus declared itself independent in 1983 but the breakaway state is recognised only by Ankara.
July 20 is celebrated in the north as the anniversary of the “Cyprus Peace Operation”.
For the majority Greek Cypriots, the invasion led to the occupation of 37 percent of the island, heavy loss of life and property, and a partition that persists to this day.
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