NEWS

Cyprus fuel search row heats up

A row between Cyprus and Turkey over hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean escalated to near-crisis levels Friday as Greece, a traditional ally and European Union partner of Nicosia, warned it will do everything to defend the national interest of the two nations.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Friday called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute, saying that any finds should benefit both communities on the island provided its 37-year division comes to an end.

?Turkey?s unilateral acts and recent repeated statements effectively contribute to the creation of a climate of instability, tension and, of course, of a possible regional crisis,? Greek Defense Minister Panos Beglitis said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Dimitris Iliadis in Athens Friday.

Ankara should display ?pragmatism? and comply with international law, Beglitis said, adding that Greece will not hesitate to ?defend the national interests of Greece and of the Republic of Cyprus.?

Turkey?s Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Atalay said Friday that if Nicosia were to go ahead with drilling, Turkey would demarcate its sea borders with the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the island?s north and begin explorations of its own.

Turkey on Thursday sent a Norwegian research vessel to search for gas and oil off the Greek island of Kastelorizo. Developments yesterday also prompted a reaction from the UN, which has mediated a series of unsuccessful reunification talks on Cyprus.

?The United Nations would appeal to all involved to resolve this matter in a peaceful manner,? said special envoy Lisa Buttenheim after hosting talks between Greek-Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

?It should be understood that natural resources… would be for the benefit of all Cypriots… under the framework of a federal united Cyprus,? she said. The two men did not directly discuss the issue, but Greek Premier George Papandreou is expected to do so at a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the United States next Friday.