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US official: Oil dispute won't harm Cyprus talks

US official: Oil dispute won't harm Cyprus talks

A dispute between Cyprus and Turkey over offshore oil and gas exploration will not harm talks to reunify the ethnically split island, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said the dispute is a commercial and legal matter that has no bearing on slow-moving talks between Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Cyprus was divided into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Christofias and Talat restarted peace talks last September, but have made little tangible progress so far.
"I see no reason why this dispute should have any impact on the negotiations," Bryza told a news conference at the end of a three-day visit to the island. "There are many factors out there that can hinder or help reach a solution, and I'm saying this is not a major one."
Turkey does not recognize European Union-member Cyprus as a sovereign country and strongly objects to a Greek Cypriot search for mineral deposits in the island's exclusive economic zone off its southern coast.
Turkey also claims rights inside the zone and says Turkish Cypriots should have a say in how the island's oil-and-gas rights are used.
Cyprus government officials say the search for fossil fuels remains a sovereign right, but that both communities could share in the possible energy bounty if ongoing reunification talks prove successful.
U.S. energy firm Noble Energy is set to launch seismic work inside island's zone later this year.
Cyprus has licensed Noble to search for fossil fuels near two significant gas discoveries in its Israeli offshore blocks.
Bryza said the U.S. government wants disputes between friends and allies resolved "legally and in the safest way possible" and to ensure that a promising chance to achieve a peace deal "does not go away because of any factor."


Updated : 2021-04-24 01:40 GMT+08:00