Nicosia to bar Ankara over oil bid

Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou yesterday said his country would continue to block Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union unless the neighboring country stops acting like «the classroom bully» in a dispute with Nicosia over oil and gas exploration off the island’s coast. «The [European Union] energy chapter cannot open while Turkey is attempting to block the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, from utilizing its own energy resources in accordance with international law,» Kyprianou said. «It’s up to Turkey. If it pledges to behave like a modern state in the 21st century that wants to join the European Union and makes those necessary actions, Cyprus will then have no reason to raise objections,» the minister added. Kyprianou’s comments followed last week’s decision by Ankara to authorize the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) to prospect for oil outside Turkish territorial waters off the coast of Cyprus. The decision has fueled concerns in Athens as well as Nicosia, as the move has coincided with a spike in violations of Greek air space in the Aegean by Turkish jets. Diplomatic sources in Athens yesterday told Kathimerini that the Turkish initiative was being seen as an embittered reaction to an agreement between Cypriot authorities and major US firms to launch exploration off the island’s coast. Ankara is believed to have been particularly irked by reports that abundant reserves already have been located in the area where the exploration is to take place. Turkish authorities have repeatedly threatened to «naturally defend» their legal rights and interests in the area and insist that Turkish Cypriots should have a say in how the island’s oil and gas reserves are exploited.