Sea Border Deal 'Null and Void' - Turkey
A recently-signed bilateral agreement between Israel and Cyprus which sets out the sea border between the two countries, is 'null and void' for Turkey, said the country's foreign ministry in a strong statement against the deal.
The Exclusive Economic Zone deal clears the way for both countries to know their rights for the exploitation of valuable undersea gas and oil in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"By ignoring Turkish Cypriots’ rights, Greek Cypriots’ efforts for concluding such agreements, are highly untimely and raise questions as to their real intentions and sincerity regarding the settlement process," said Turkey's foreign minister.
Turkish Cypriots "have also rights and jurisdiction over the maritime areas of the Cyprus Island. The Greek Cypriot Administration does not represent in law or in fact the Turkish Cypriots and Cyprus as a whole. Therefore, agreements signed by the Greek Cypriots with countries of the region are null and void for Turkey," goes the statement.
Turkey "does not have any claim regarding the maritime areas subject to the said EEZ delimitation agreement. Turkey approaches to this issue within the context of the Cyprus problem," said the statement.
Cyprus answers Turkey
In response, Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said: "The Republic of Cyprus is the only legitimate state in Cyprus...and represents the entire people of Cyprus, including Turkish Cypriots."
Turkey "not only has no authority to deny (the republic) but is obliged to recognise the Republic of Cyprus in its EU accession course," he added. The international conventions signed by the RoC "do not have any relationship and neither can, or should, affect talks on resolving the Cyprus problem," said Kyprianou.
"These contracts involve and benefit the entire Cypriot people. What prevents the Turkish Cypriots from benefiting from the legal state's intiatives is the illegal Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus," he said, calling on Turkey to take active and real steps to help solve the problem.
The rhetoric started almost immediately after the announcement of the bilateral deal, after Turkey summoned Israel's ambassador in Ankara and gave him a 'sharp rebuke'. Both Cyprus and Israel have rejected Turkey's criticism.
But Turkey's foreign ministry said it will continue its efforts "through diplomatic and political channels" in order to protect the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots. The country has said repeatedly that it would take action if Cyprus attempts to exploit oil and gas reserves without the Turkish Cypriots benefiting. Cyprus was occupied by Turkey in 1974 and the Turkish-Cypriots live in the north of the island - separated from the rest of the population by the Green Line border and a UN-patrolled neutral zone.
The agreement sets the sea border north of Israel at the maritime mid-point between the two countries, and was signed on December 17th in Nicosia.