LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus 

The premier of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) slammed on Tuesday a joint declaration dubbing Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean as “illegal”.

“Turkish Cypriots have as much rights as the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said TRNC Prime Minister Ersin Tatar in a statement.

Tatar said that some parties heighten hostilities when their interests in the region are being hampered, but this was not a rightful approach.

The Turkish Cypriot premier’s remarks came after Greece, Egypt, France, the Greek Cypriot administration, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) released the joint declaration to criticize Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean on Monday.

Tatar described the joint declaration as “far from realism and cooperation, outdated and hostile”.

“What Greece and Greek Cypriot administration should do is get in guileless dialogue with Turkey and the TRNC,” he said.

“We will continue to walk on our right way with the support of motherland Turkey,” he added.

On Monday, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy harshly criticized the joint declaration.

– Turkey’s rights in Eastern Mediterranean

In May 2019, Turkish-flagged drill ships began offshore drilling operations in areas off the coast of Cyprus. The areas fall entirely within the Turkish continental shelf registered with the UN and in permit licenses the Turkish government in previous years granted to Turkish Petroleum, the country’s national oil company.

Turkey wants to see energy as an incentive for political resolution on the island and peace in the wider Mediterranean basin, not a catalyst for further tensions.

In January, the Greek Cypriot administration issued arrest warrants for crew members of the ships and officials of companies cooperating with Turkish Petroleum.

Last November, Ankara and Libya’s government, founded in 2015 under a UN-led political deal, signed a pact on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The pact asserted Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.

It further underlined that Ankara had a say in projects that involve it, as it has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, and that it is prepared to cooperate with all countries in the region except the Greek Cypriot administration.

Turkey is a guarantor nation for the TRNC and has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.

In 1974, following a coup aiming at the annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.

The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest, held in Switzerland with the participation of the guarantor countries — Turkey, Greece, and the UK — came to an end without any progress in 2017.

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