Turkish Cypriots say they will halt gas search as Greek president visits Nicosia

Turkish Cypriots said on Monday they were suspending their gas exploration off the coast of Cyprus and that the Barbaros seismic vessel, whose presence within the Mediterranean island’s maritime zone caused Nicosia to pull out of peace talks last year, will soon return to Turkey.

The decision, announced to The Associated Press by Ozdil Nami, who is responsible for foreign affairs in the breakaway state in the Turkish-occupied section of Cyprus, came as Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos started a two-day visit to Nicosia.

It is Pavlopoulos’s first official trip since taking office earlier this month – a symbolic gesture also made by his predecessors. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

Speaking after a meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Pavlopoulos affirmed Greek support for a peace settlement. He said that although Athens supported UN-brokered talks to reunite the island, Nicosia had rightly halted negotiations following Ankara’s violation of the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in October last year.

“Any violation of Cyprus’s EEZ is a violation of the EU’s EEZ,” Pavlopoulos said, adding that Turkey’s behavior was undermining the country’s EU membership ambitions.

The Greek president also revealed that he had turned down an invitation from his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to visit Ankara, saying that such a move would only make sense if it marked some tangible progress on Cyprus or the delineation of the continental shelf.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the east Mediterranean island in response to an Athens-engineered coup aimed at uniting it with Greece.

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