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Greece Warns Turkey on Cyprus Gas Exploration

greece turkey cyprus gas oilGreece is able to defend Cyprus' sovereignty under the International Law of the Sea and will do so if necessary, said Greek Defence Minister Panagiotis Beglitis in a warning to Turkey not to interfere with the island's offshore oil and gas exploration.

"The heart of our defence doctrine is always the Cyprus Republic," he said.

Greece will also ensure its own sovereign right to explore for hydrocarbons in its territorial waters extending 12 miles out to sea, he said.

Turkey opposes offshore hydrocarbon exploitation by Greece and Cyprus and has recently renewed veiled threats that it will take action over the issue. Experts estimate that there are rich reserves of oil and gas in Cyprus' offshore waters as well as in the disputed territory in the Aegean Sea. Turkey is one of the countries which has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, which has been in force since 1994. There are 162 countries that have ratified the Convention, including Cyprus and Greece.

Greece is the latest country after Russia to warn Turkey against crossing the line and interfering with energy companies such as Noble Energy which is due to start drilling in Cyprus' Block 12 by early October.

Israel and Cyprus' interests are also closely aligned after the two countries signed an agreement delimiting their maritime borders in late 2010.

Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis just wrapped up a visit to Israel to discuss undersea hydrocarbon exploration with President of Israel Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. The maritime border agreement - declared null and void by Turkey - also led to cooperation on undersea reserves exploitation and closer diplomatic relations between Israel and Cyprus, with Peres expected to visit Cyprus in the near future.

On August 9th, Turkey renewed its veiled threats towards Cyprus on the issue of undersea gas and oil exploration, with a statement from its foreign ministry saying that "the Greek Cypriot Administration does not represent in law or in fact the Turkish Cypriots and Cyprus as a whole."

Bilateral agreements between Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel are "unilateral actions" which could derail settlement talks, give rise to new conflicts and increase tensions in the region, according to the statement.

"These unlawful acts create tension in the region, compromise and prejudge the Turkish Cypriots’ existing and inherent equal rights over the natural resources of the island," says Turkey's foreign ministry.

In response, recently-appointed foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoulis said that the statements were 'posturing' from Turkey and that she would complain to the UN Security Council and the EU. And President Demetris Christofias called on the international community to end its silence on Turkey's threatening attitude to Cyprus.

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