Erdogan, Christofias Slam Each Other at 66th UN Assembly
The fight between Nicosia and Ankara over oil-and-gas exploration rights in the seas around Cyprus moved to New York yesterday, with President Demetris Christofias and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan trading tit-for-tat condemnations during speeches to the 66th UN Assembly.
"Turkish naval maneuvers in the region of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, where exploration is being carried out, are provocative and pose a real danger for further complications in the region," said Christofias in his speech on September 22nd.
There are reports that Turkey has sent three more warships to patrol the Eastern Mediterranean, and yesterday, the state news agency said that a Cyprus Airways pilot had visual contact with Turkish fighter jets flying illegally in Cyprus' airspace.
In more developments today, three Turkish submarines have been dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean, along with Turkish seismic research ship K. Piri Reis which will explore for undersea gas and oil off north Cyprus' coastline, say Turkish news reports.
Turkey continues its illegal activities by signing an agreement with the Turkish-Cypriots to pursue undersea exploration, said Christofias. The area lies in the island's EEZ, but is not accessible because it has been controlled by Turkey since it invaded the island in 1974.
"I...condemn this illegal act which constitutes a provocation, not only for the Republic of Cyprus but also for the entire international community," he said.
In his own speech later in the day, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said he expects all concerned parties to work actively to insure that the Greek-Cypriot administration halts exploration activities, "otherwise we will do what is necessary."
Erdogan described Cyprus' offshore drilling plans as 'extremely irresponsible' and reiterated his position that they should not proceed until there is a political settlement with the Turkish Cypriots.
Impact on reunification talks
The row between Ankara and Nicosia has affected reunification talks because the Turkish-Cypriot side is backtracking on previously agreed positions, said Christofias.
"This change in the Turkish Cypriot leadership’s stance draws on the recent negative and provocative policy of Turkey in the region," he said.
Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have until the end of October to put together a reunification plan that can be presented to UN Secretary-general Ban ki-Moon and eventually to parallel referenda in the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriot communities.
In other comments on regional developments, Christofias said that "Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve a peaceful, stable and secure future within the framework of two independent states."
"We maintain our principled position for a free and independent Palestinian state, next to the State of Israel, within the 1967 borders," he said.
Later today, the Palestinians are expected to lodge their formal application to join the UN as a state, against objections from Israel and US which support direct talks instead.
Photo of K Piris ship credit: AA