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Turkey stages search and rescue drills off Cyprus amid oil dispute
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 1438 days ago | Wednesday, 17th June , 2009 , 20:07 [pm] | Azerbaijan
|.|| Turkish and Turkish Cypriot warships staged search and rescue drills off the island of Cyprus on Wednesday amid tensions over disputed exploration of oil and gas in waters in the region.
The frigate Gemlik and
Turkish and Turkish Cypriot warships staged search and rescue drills off the island of Cyprus on Wednesday amid tensions over disputed exploration of oil and gas in waters in the region.
The frigate Gemlik and other vessels took part in the maneuvers off the northern town of Famagusta, which included extinguishing a fire on a ship, rescuing the crew of a sea plane in distress and plucking illegal migrants from a sinking rubber boat.
Turkish Cypriot military officials denied the maneuvers were a show of force, but it comes amid a rekindled dispute with Greek Cypriots over who is entitled to the islands potential offshore oil and gas wealth.
Cyprus has been divided since 1964 when Turkish Cypriots were forced to withdraw into enclaves. In addition to the Turkish Cypriot Peace Forces Command, or KTBK, made up of 4,500 Turkish Cypriots, there are around 35,000 Turkish troops stationed on the island.
According to the 1960 agreements on Cyprus; Turkey, Greece and Britain were given the guarantor power status on the island.
Turkey strongly objects to a Greek Cypriot search for mineral deposits inside the island’s exclusive economic zone; an area covering 51,000 square kilometers (17,000 sq. miles) of seabed off the island’s southern coast.
Turkey has warned Greek Cypriots against pursuing “adventurist policies” and says Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in how the island’s oil-and-gas rights are used.
Greek Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou was quoted by AP as saying Tuesday the search for fossil fuels inside the island’s zone remains its sovereign right and that it would protest the military drills at the U.N. and the EU.
Stefanou added that both communities could share in the possible bounty if ongoing reunification talks prove successful.
Re-launched in September 2008 after a four-year hiatus, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, have been involved in U.N.-sponsored unification talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the island’s decades-long division. But little progress has been made so far.
The talks mark the first major push for peace since the failure of a U.N. reunification plan in 2004, which was approved by Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.
“This is an additional motivating factor … to continue negotiations so that we can reach a just, viable and functional settlement, to reunify our homeland,” Stefanou said.
The spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Burak Ozugergin, said his country had legitimate rights and interests in certain areas in the East Mediterranean.
“Therefore, it is natural for Turkey to take the necessary measures against any activities that are held in these areas without its permission,” Ozugergin was quoted by the Anatolian Agency as telling reporters.
He also reiterated his call to all concerned parties to employ common sense and refrain from acts that might cause tension in days when the two communities in the island were carrying out negotiations aiming at a comprehensive settlement.hurriyet, Voice of a Nation