UN envoy urges both sides to avoid ‘further escalation’ after Nicosia halts peace talks

One day after Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades suspended talks to reunify the divided island in response to Turkey’s plan to search for oil and gas in waters where Nicosia had already licensed drilling, a United Nations official has reportedly urged both sides to avoid further escalation.

“I think it’s very important now that everybody acts responsibly and avoid further escalation and that we as soon as possible create an understanding that the oil and gas resources, as President Anastasiades has repeatedly stated, is for all Cypriots,” the UN’s special envoy Espen Barth Eide was quoted by Cyprus Mail as telling reporters after meeting with Anastasiades on Wednesday.

“It is a serious issue that we also see in all parts of the world when you have maritime disputes… Oil and gas can be either a blessing or a curse. If it is well managed it will be a source of wealth for all Cypriots; if it becomes a source of tension it will be a problem for everyone and then it will be more of a curse than a solution,” Eide said, according to the report.

On Tuesday, Cyprus pulled out of the latest round of UN-buffered peace talks in protest at apparent attempts by Turkey to encroach on Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by conducting seismic research off the island’s southern coast – in areas where Nicosia already has licenses to drill for natural gas – and called on the international community to condemn Ankara’s “provocative behavior.”

Anastasiades made the decision after gaining the endorsement of Cypriot political party leaders, according to government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, who said Turkey’s behavior had left Nicosia with “no other choice.” The spokesman called on “all other countries, and especially our European Union partners, as well as permanent members of the [UN] Security Council to react to Turkey’s action.”

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