Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who arrived in Cyprus on February 2 on his first official visit since being sworn in a week ago, said the violation of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf by Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros “constitutes a blatant violation of international law and undermines the necessary talks between the two sides”.
Talks that must continue but in order it is needs from the Turkish side to respect good neighbourly relations and international law – not threats, Tsipras told a press conference in Nicosia. Standing next to Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Tsipras stressed that Athens and Cyprus are in the same wavelength.
Anastasiades reiterated that the any hydrocarbons found in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone would be used for the benefit of all legal residents of Cyprus. “Energy is the most powerful motivation that will lead to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem that will leave no winners and losers, but will meet the expectations of the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to create a modern European state,” he said.
Institute of Energy for South-East Europe (IENE) Executive Director Costis Stambolis told New Europe on February 2 that Tsipras’ visit is symbolic. “This is not the right time for any geopolitical stance. It’s a waiting, thinking and consolidation period,” he said, noting that “the very-promising situation that involves oil and gas deposits in East Mediterranean is gradually coming to a halt”.
Cyprus is facing a lot of exploration and administrative problems and all this is combined by a very sharp drop in the oil prices, he said. French oil major Total admitted last month that it had failed to pinpoint reserves that would justify costly drilling.
Meanwhile, US company Noble Energy, which has been developing gas reserves as well arranging for supplies for Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, is facing problems with the Israeli government that wants to suspend the partnership between Noble and Israel’s Delek amid charges that the companies were acting as a cartel. “All this is affecting Noble’s presence in the region,” Stambolis said. “Cyprus’ main challenge now is to find a way to monetize the deposits that have already been discovered. This is the challenge – not new oil and gas finds which will come long term,” Stambolis said.
During the press conference in Nicosia, Tsipras, who was elected on an anti-bailout platform, also said that Greece and Cyprus’ geopolitical importance should not be diminished by the economic crisis. “Cyprus and Greece are connected with a glorious history but also I want to believe a promising future – a common European and Mediterranean future with important potential. Despite the economic crisis that has burdened Greek and Cypriots with unfair sacrifices, Greece and Cyprus remain two important pillars of stability in the troubles region of the eastern Mediterranean,” Tsipras said.
“Those who don’t understand this and just make economic calculations very soon will be proved wrong because while economists are important if we rely exclusively on them we face the danger of leading Europe to a catastrophe. What we need is prudence, self-control, and a return to logic of partnership and solidarity between European states,” Greece’s new premier said.
Tsipras dismissed reports that Greece is in talks with Russia regarding a loan. “We’re involved in substantive negotiation and consultation with our European partners and with those have loaned our country and our country has commitment towards them. There are no other thoughts on the table,” he said.
Tsipras said Athens and Nicosia were also aligned on the EU’s stance with regard to sanctions on Russia. “We discussed with President Anastasiades the need to have a coordinated position in international forums in order to have a necessary bridge between Europe and Russia in order to claim what is needed for our people but also all the European people. The continuation of tension, the evolution of a war into an economic war cannot have any positive result for the European people. On that note, Greece and Cyprus can be a bridge of peace cooperation also between the European Union and Russia,” he said.
For his part Anastasiades reminded that EU’s policies regarding Russia – a major economic partner for both Athens and Nicosia – have hurt the economies of some European states. “We have agreed that the Minsk Agreement and diplomatic dialogue will give the answer. We have also agreed that we will work with other countries that share similar views so that politics of diplomacy prevails over the policy of sanctions. Sanctions have an effect not only on the country that are imposed on but have reverse effect on the country that imposes them,” the Cypriot president said.