ENERGY: Cyprus rejects Turkish Cypriot pitch for joint control over gas riches

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Cyprus on Tuesday rejected as “unacceptable” a Turkish Cypriot proposal on energy revenue sharing to help de-escalate tensions created over Turkish drilling activity off the divided island’s coast.

Nicosia argues that jointly managing the island’s untapped energy resources can only be workable once a decades-elusive peace settlement has been agreed and that Turkish Cypriots will get their equal share.

"The proposal of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci cannot be accepted as it diverts from the substance of the Cyprus problem and the need to re-launch substantive negotiations with the aim of achieving a sustainable and functional solution,” said Cypriot government official Vassilis Palmas.

“Mr Akinci's proposal contains provisions that do not serve the common interests of the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot people as a whole,” he added.

Palmas made the comments to reporters after Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades briefed Greek Cypriot political party leaders on the Turkish Cypriot proposal.

He said political leaders had given their “unanimous backing” to the president to issue a detailed response to the UN and the Turkish Cypriots that highlights all the “negative aspects” of the proposal.

Nicosia’s point-by-point response will underline the main objective is to reach an overall solution of the Cyprus problem and create a conducive climate for the resumption of peace talks, said Palmas.

Akinci on Saturday proposed creating a joint committee across the divided Mediterranean island, to address tensions over offshore energy reserves.

The measure aims to "pass the subject of hydrocarbons from an area of tensions and conflicts to an area of productive cooperation," Akinci said.

Cyprus is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway state set up after the 1974 Turkish invasion, following a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

UN-sponsored peace talks have been in limbo since the collapse of a Cyprus summit in Switzerland in July 2017.

Ankara's deployment of two ships — the Fatih and Yavuz — to search for oil and gas in waters designated as a Republic of Cyprus maritime zone has sparked a dispute which has seen the EU impose sanctions against Turkey.

Its decision to press on with drilling in the EEZ has also sparked criticism from Egypt, Israel and the United States.

The committee proposed by Akinci to resolve the dispute would include representatives of his administration and those of the Republic of Cyprus in equal number.

It would be supervised by the UN with the EU as an observer, according to the proposal.

The European Union on Monday agreed measures to punish Turkey for pursuing drilling operations off Cyprus despite repeated warnings to withdraw.