Turkey-North Cyprus gas deal set to raise regional tensions

Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:09pm GMT

By Jonathon Burch

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey signed a deal with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state on Wednesday that will pave the way for offshore gas exploration, in a move set to escalate regional tensions over Mediterranean energy reserves.

On Tuesday, the Greek Cypriot government, which has been at loggerheads with Turkey since its military invasion of north Cyprus in 1974, said drilling had begun in a southeastern offshore block, adjoining a gas field in Israeli waters reputed to be the world's largest find of the past decade.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan described the offshore drilling by Cyprus and Turkey's estranged ally Israel as "madness" before signing the deal with the Turkish Cypriots to clear the path for Turkish exploration off northern Cyprus.

"We had previously brought to the international community's attention in a clear manner ... that if the Greek Cypriots started drilling, we would take a number of concrete steps together with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," Erdogan was quoted as saying by state news agency Anatolian.

"To reflect this commitment, Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus today in New York signed a continental shelf agreement."


Turkey is the only country to recognise the Turkish Cypriot state, while the Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognised and represents the island in the European Union.

Both Cyprus and Greece denounced the agreement as illegal.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.