Athens insists on Nicosia’s oil rights

Athens and Brussels yesterday emphasized the right of Cyprus as a sovereign state to go ahead with offshore oil and gas exploration deals despite strong objections from Ankara. «Independent states have the inalienable sovereign right to enter interstate agreements and to honor them,» said Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that Ankara’s challenge to Nicosia’s rights «was a lonely road in the opposite direction to EU principles and rules.» Grilled by reporters about whether Turkish protests to Cypriot oil exploration plans had strained Greek-Turkish ties, Koumoutsakos was diplomatic. «Our relationship has not always been straightforward,» he said. Koumoutsakos stressed that «peace and stability in the eastern Aegean requires good-neighborly relations and mutual respect.» He said the exploration issue would be discussed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, who is due in Athens next week. Nicosia government spokesman Christodoulos Pasiardes was more critical of Ankara’s intervention. «Through its actions, Turkey has compromised itself in the eyes of the international community,» Pasiardes said. In Brussels, Krisztina Nagy, spokesperson for EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, backed Nicosia. Cyprus’s right as a sovereign state to forge international pacts – as long as they respect European law – is not up for question, she said.