Cyprus: Gas search to continue despite Turkey's opposition

A search for gas off Cyprus will benefit all the ethnically divided island's citizens and will continue as planned despite Turkey's efforts to interfere, the Cypriot president said Wednesday.

President Nicos Anastasiades said in a statement that any potential wealth generated by new gas finds would be shared equitably with all Cypriot citizens once the island is reunified.

Anastasiades rejected Turkish criticism that the hydrocarbons search disregarded the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots, adding that any gas proceeds would be deposited in a sovereign fund awaiting parliamentary approval.

In 1974, Cyprus was split into a Greek-speaking south — where the island's internationally recognized government is located — and a Turkish-speaking north when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

Anastasiades repeated an appeal for a resumption of peace talks on condition that Turkey stops obstructing drilling southeast of the island.

Citing naval maneuvers, Turkish warships have been blocking a rig from reaching a target where Italian company Eni has been scheduled to conduct exploratory drilling since Feb. 8. Turkey this week renewed a notice for more naval maneuvers in the area.

The rig remains anchored 30 miles from the drilling target. It's unclear whether it will wait out the Turkish maneuvers or leave.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has accused Greek Cypriots of acting like the island's resources belong only to them and said Turkish Cypriots would launch their own gas search in conjunction with Turkey.

U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty told reporters after meeting with Anastasiades on Wednesday that the United States "feels very strongly" that the Cyprus government has the right to explore and exploit its offshore resources.

Doherty said that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the issue with officials during a visit to Turkey last week.


Suzan Fraser, in Ankara, Turkey, contributed.