Ankara rapped over Cyprus

The government yesterday chided Turkey for interfering with Cypriot plans for oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean and accused Ankara of fueling tensions and violating international laws. «(Turkey’s reaction) is not productive… and in total contradiction with international law and the right of a sovereign government to negotiate international agreements,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. «Ankara’s stance is being assessed and the appropriate action will be taken through diplomatic channels,» Koumoutsakos said, without elaborating. Meanwhile Nicosia said it would protest to the United Nations and the European Union over Turkish warnings to Lebanon and Egypt not to press ahead with exploration deals signed with Cyprus and condemned Ankara for its «provocative behavior.» «We consider Turkey’s threats to be the unjustified and groundless reactions of an incorrigible regional troublemaker,» Cypriot government spokesman Christodoulos Pasiardis said. «Nothing has changed,» Pasiardis added. «We are proceeding exactly as we planned, exercising, as an independent and sovereign state, our legal, inalienable rights that are safeguarded by international law.» In the meantime, there were indications that Turkey’s threats may have had the desired impact as Lebanon assured Ankara that it was «committed to its excellent relations with Turkey» despite its exploration agreement with Cyprus. Hisham Dimashkieh, a senior official at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry «clarified that Lebanon stands at an equal distance from all friendly countries out of keenness to preserve the rights of all parties,» according to a ministry statement published in local media. There were no reports yesterday of any response to Ankara’s warnings from the Egyptian government. Cyprus signed agreements with Egypt in 2005, and Lebanon in early January delineating the sea boundaries between them. Previous studies have suggested the seas around Cyprus could contain reserves of between 6 and 8 billion barrels of crude with an estimated value of $400 billion.