Nicosia on Thursday rejected a call by Ankara for a halt to drilling activities off the island's south as a precondition for it to stop its own activities off the divided island.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that Turkey's activities are aimed at protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots, adding that “until these rights are guaranteed, Turkish Petroleum will continue to operate” in the areas licensed by the breakaway state.
“These rights can only be guaranteed either by jointly suspending all offshore activities in the south of the island until a comprehensive settlement is reached in Cyprus, or by launching a cooperation mechanism by the Greek Cypriots with the Turkish Cypriots in accordance with the July 13, 2019 proposal,” Aksoy said.
“Otherwise, Turkey will continue resolutely to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots,” said Aksoy.
Responding, Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said that Nicosia “has never usurped or tried to usurp the rights of Turkish Cypriots, in contrast to what Turkey has done, chiefly to the detriment of Greek Cypriots but also of Turkish Cypriots,” he said, reiterating a call for Turkey to contribute to efforts to relaunch peace talks for Cyprus.
Koushos also reiterated Nicosia's call to Turkey to enter a dialogue with Cyprus on delineating exclusive economic zones between the two countries.
In his statement, Aksoy retorted that “the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas to the west of the island of Cyprus will only be possible after the resolution of the Cyprus issue.”
He also defended a maritime borders deal signed between Ankara and Libya's Tripoli-based government, saying Ankara “entirely rejects” criticism of the pact.
Separately, according to a French military source, France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier this week spotted a Turkish frigate escorting a cargo ship delivering armored vehicles to the Libyan capital Tripoli in defiance of a United Nations embargo.