Turkish PM Calls for Deal with Greek Cypriots Over Energy Deposits
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Friday for an agreement over exploiting hydrocarbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, an issue that caused the breakdown of peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in October.
Greek Cypriots say Turkey sent a research vessel to collect seismic data in disputed waters off the divided island of Cyprus where the Nicosia government was also exploring.
The comments came during a visit by Davutoglu to Athens, as part of a two-day annual event to boost ties between the Greece and Turkey, two neighbouring countries have long been embroiled in disputes over territory, energy exploration and Cyprus.
"We will continue with the bilateral talks ... we need to go deeper and find a solution. We don't want tension, neither in the Aegean nor in the eastern Mediterranean," Davutoglu said.
"Let's solve this issue, in order to exploit our energy resources and connect possible natural gas resources with Greece through Turkey," he said in translated comments.
Last month, Greece urged Turkey, which is its biggest trade partner, to stop provoking Cyprus, which has been ethnically split since a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a brief coup inspired by the military junta then ruling Greece.
A chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator said last Tuesday that a peace settlement in Cyprus would not be possible unless Greek Cypriots cut a deal on natural gas exploration with the Turkish-backed breakaway state in the north of the island.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Friday that "trust" would help the two countries' economies to grow.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said, "The key to speeding up bilateral relations and easing Greek-Turkish relations is the Cyprus issue."
The Nicosia government has already granted exploration licences to several multinationals, including U.S. Noble Energy , Italy's ENI and France's Total. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Louise Ireland)