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ENERGY: Rift between London and Nicosia over remark on Cyprus drilling rights

15 May, 2019

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has criticised British Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan’s remarks as "unacceptable" following his statement to parliament that exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons should not take place in areas where sovereignty is “under dispute”.


Duncan, who was responding to questions by MPs, was referring to Turkey`s decision to launch drilling activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

This has riled Nicosia that has worked hard for a unified stance from the EU.

Anastasiades described the comments as "unacceptable", saying British Minister had behaved in the same way in the past, and that the necessary representations will be made to UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Duncan "has been and continues to be unacceptable" the President said, adding that his stance does not reflect the right policy which Britain should follow given its interests in Cyprus.

Anastasiades noted the unprecedented support which Britain has enjoyed during the current Brexit mess from Cyprus, which, he said, has voting rights in the EU equal to larger member states.

Ankara has issued a navigational telex, announcing its intention to start drilling off Cyprus until September 3.

The Turkish drill ship “Fatih” is located almost 40 nautical miles west of Cyprus and 83 nautical miles from the Turkish coast. The area falls within the EEZ and continental shelf of the Republic of Cyprus.

After the government’s angry reaction, the UK Foreign Office sought to clarify its position regarding the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ.

In reply to a request on behalf of the UK National Federation by Mike Freer MP for clarification on Sir Alan’s statement, the Foreign Office initially repeated his position: “The position of the UK is that, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute.”

It then stated the UK position on the Cypriot EEZ: “We recognise the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed Exclusive Economic Zone. We believe Cyprus’ oil and gas should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots, as the Foreign Office has said before.”

The statement has been described as unclear by the Cypriot diaspora in the UK.