United States Reaffirms Support for Cyprus' Right to Conduct Energy Explorations

Sep 30, 2011, 16:43 ET from Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. State Department on Thursday reaffirmed U.S. support for Cyprus' sovereign right to continue to explore for natural resources.  Speaking at a daily press briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said, "The United States supports Cyprus' right to explore for energy. Having a U.S. company involved in developing the energy resources of Cyprus is also positive."

During the briefing, Toner also reiterated the U.S.' support for the ongoing negotiations to reunify the island, saying the U.S. "continues to support strongly the Cypriot-led negotiation process, conducted under U.N. good offices, to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation."

Mr. Toner further pointed out that Washington "continue[s] to believe that the island's oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement," and that "we don't believe that developing offshore energy resources need hinder those reunification talks." In fact, when asked to confirm that the U.S. position is that the ongoing explorations do not hinder the U.N.-led reunification talks, he categorically did so saying "that's our position."

The U.S. spokesperson, invited to comment on the Turkish prime minister's threats against Cyprus ("to invade Cyprus again"), said that "there's a very clear path forward here. There's a Cypriot-led negotiation process being conducted under the U.N. That's the best way to resolve all of these issues."

U.S.-based Noble Energy Inc., which has the license to carry out  explorations off the east Mediterranean island's offshore territory, began explorations on Sept. 19 amid threats by Turkey to send warships to the area.  

President Demetris Christofias has stressed that Cyprus will continue explorations for natural gas in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) **, despite the Turkish threats which are inadmissible and in violation of international law. At an event yesterday, President Christofias said that since the Republic of Cyprus began exploratory drilling, Turkey has intensified its provocations in an effort to prevent Cyprus from exercising its sovereign rights. "Turkey, with provocations and threats, violates the international law, which it is called upon to respect," President Christofias said, adding that at the same time the U.N., the EU and the international community must demand that Turkey respects international law and that it stops its threats against the Republic of Cyprus which constitute a source of tension and danger in the region.

President Christofias described the linking of the Cyprus problem with the explorations in the EEZ as "excuses" on the part of the Turkish side. "The Republic of Cyprus does not participate in the negotiations. It is the two communities that participate, so there can be no issue from the Turkish side or from anybody else. There is no linking of the explorations for hydrocarbons with the ongoing process for the solution of the Cyprus problem," he added. He further underlined that the Republic of Cyprus cannot remain hostage to the unwillingness of Turkey to cooperate for a solution and thus not exercise its sovereign rights, and reiterated that the sovereign rights of Cyprus are non-negotiable. "We will continue the explorations always acting strictly in the framework of the international law," he stressed.

** Cyprus - Exclusive Economic Zone

One of the basic rights that all the internationally recognized states enjoy is the right to sovereignty over their territory. The term territory does not include only a state's land territory, but also the air and the sea space that surrounds it, in the case of coastal states. Regarding the air and sea space, there are international laws which dictate the exercise of the sovereign right of states in such a way so that this right may not be questioned and the international air and sea navigation may be safeguarded.

Sea Area – United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, provides, inter alia, clear definitions on the Territorial Sea or Territorial Waters, the Contiguous Zone or border zone and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was concluded in 1982, at Montego Bay in Jamaica and came into force on 16 November 1994, replaced four older international treaties. On 30th April 1982 in New York, a consensus process was used for the new Convention, during which 130 states voted in favor of the Convention, four voted against and 17 abstained. Among the states that voted against the Convention was Turkey. By the end of 2008, 157 countries ratified the Convention, including Cyprus (12 December 1988).

Exclusive Economic Zone

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea introduced many innovations including the establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which starts at the coastal baseline and extends up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles out into the sea, perpendicular to the baseline. The delimitation of EEZ's between neighboring coastal states is determined through agreements concluded between these states in accordance with the Convention's provisions. The Republic of Cyprus has signed such agreements with Egypt, Lebanon and Israel.

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SOURCE Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus