By Murat Demirci
LEFKOSA (AA) – The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Turkish Petroleum will launch their natural gas exploration program on the island's southwest, the country's deputy prime minister said Tuesday.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Kudret Ozersay, who is also foreign minister, said the Greek Cypriot administration's opening of tenders for foreign energy companies for natural gas exploration in the seventh block located in the so-called exclusive economic zone is “unlawful,” as it is an attempt to rob the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
"As Republic of Turkey and TRNC, we will not let Greek Cypriot administration take foreign companies in the seventh block," Ozersay said.
"TRNC and Turkish Petroleum will do their own research and protect our rights in the seventh block," he added.
There are 12 blocks for natural gas drills around south of the island. The relatively small Aphrodite gas field is estimated to hold 127 bcm in capacity.
The block 7 is one of the blocks located in the unilaterally declared exclusive economic zone and Greek Cypriot Administration wants to invite foreign energy firms for natural gas exploration.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. collapsing in 2017.
Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the talks' failure, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a peace deal.
Ozersay said that a UN military camp in Gazimagusa province of Northern Cyprus should move to another place as the area has now taken the shape of a bustling downtown and the camp is disturbing local residents.
"There are helicopters taking off or landing near this camp. There are helicopters, trucks in the middle of the local residents' living space," Ozersay added.
He said he had discussed the issue with UN officials and was hoping for a positive response from them.
The area of the camps can be transformed into a city park, he added.