Cyprus halts unity talks with Turkey

President says decision taken after Turkey’s “aggressive” plan to start test-drilling off coast.

Cyprus' foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said talks could not take place under 'conditions of provocation' [AP]

Cyprus’ president has suspended talks on reunifying the divided island in response to Turkey’s plan to search for oil and gas in waters where Cyprus had already licensed drilling.

A government spokesman said Nicos Anastasiades’ decision was the result of Turkey’s “provocative” and “aggressive” actions to start seismic tests off the island’s southern coast later this month..

Cyprus said the plan was a “serious breach” of its sovereign rights as well as the rights of its own drilling consortium, consisting of Italy’s Eni and South Korea’s Kogas.

“The least I can say is that negotiations, in order to produce results, cannot be conducted under such conditions of provocation,” said Ioannis Kasoulides, the Cypriot foreign minister, on Monday.

Cyprus did not say when peace talks might resume, adding that any decision would be made according to developments.

On Monday, Turkey’s foreign ministry urged the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government to “refrain from acting as the sole owner” of the island’s resources and to halt a “unilateral” fossil fuel search.

Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders relaunched peace talks in February after a nearly two-year hiatus, but progress has been sluggish.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming to unite the island with Greece.

Turkey does not recognise Cyprus as a state and opposes the country’s offshore energy search, saying it disregards the rights of Turkish Cypriots to their share of potential profits.

Source: AP