The United Nations on Friday called for a peaceful resolution to a growing dispute between Turkey and Greek Cyprus over offshore gas and oil exploration, saying any finds should benefit both sides of the divided island.
“It should be understood that natural resources, if they are discovered, would be for the benefit of all Cypriots – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – under the framework of a federal united Cyprus,” said Lisa Buttenheim, special representative of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who heads the U.N. peacekeeping mission on the island.
“The United Nations would appeal to all involved to resolve this matter in a peaceful manner,” she said.
Despite the U.N. call, the Greek and Turkish sides continued making dueling statements over the contentious issue. Cyprus’s internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government says it plans to go ahead with exploration for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country and opposes any Greek Cypriot oil and gas search, insisting that Turkish Cypriots should also reap any windfall that may come from any discoveries. It also said drilling could damage long-running reunification talks.
Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said Friday that the international community has afforded Cyprus political protection for the search for mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone, which is near to sizable gas finds within Israeli waters. “At this moment, we have a very satisfactory shield of political support over these actions,” she told state radio.
Texas-based Noble Energy is expected to start work imminently on a block southeast of the island. Its drilling rig was moved into position Thursday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Thursday held a telephone conversation with Ban’s special advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, Turkish diplomatic sources said. They said Davutoğlu and Downer discussed the latest developments on the island as well as settlement talks aimed at finding a solution to its ongoing division.
Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders meanwhile met Friday in the buffer zone in Nicosia as part of intensified talks. The talks will be suspended until Sept. 27 as Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias go to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. Eroğlu will fly to New York via Istanbul on Saturday.
* Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.