UK’s Duncan says drilling in areas with sovereignty “under dispute” should not proceed

The UK Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan said on Tuesday that exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons should not be taking place in areas where sovereignty is under dispute.

He was referring to Turkey’s illegal incursion into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone during a House of Commons session with questions to the Foreign Office.

The UK Cypriot Labour MP Bambos Charalambous asked the ministers to join him in condemning the decision of Turkey to begin drilling for oil and gas in the territorial waters of Cyprus and to call on Ankara to immediately withdraw its drill ships from Cyprus’ EEZ.

Charalambous noted that this decision not only jeopardises the chances of successful resumption of peace talks but also risks a return to open conflict.

Sir Alan Duncan said: Yesterday I met the Turkish ambassador and had very constructive discussions with him. The position of the UK is that, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute.

The Minister for Europe was then asked by Conservative MP Theresa Villiers whether he would agree it would be impossible to get talks between the two sides started again with the view of getting reconciliation and a settlement as long as this Turkish incursion into the EEZ of Cyprus continues.

Sir Alan responded by saying that the UK Government would obviously like to see the de-escalation of any tensions and constructive talks to resume. We are doing our utmost as a guarantor power to play our role in this and I very much hope that all the participants in the issue can get together and once again talk seriously about how some kind of settlement can be reached, he added.

The initial question submitted by Charalambous related to the diplomatic steps that have been taken to help pursue a resolution to the division of Cyprus.

Sir Alan Duncan said: I had a productive meeting with UN Cyprus consultant Jane Hall Lute on 8th January this year and my officials are in regular contact with her. I welcome the meeting of the two Cypriot leaders on the 26th of February and we are supporting those efforts. In March the PM met the Cypriot President and the Foreign secretary met Cypriot FM Christodoulides to discuss how the UK can further support any future settlement.

Asked by Daniel Kawczynski MP, the Minister for Europe also repeated that the UK is prepared to part with some of the SBA land in event of a settlement. Our position remains unchanged, he said, although he did not specify, as was the question, whether the amount of this land has been agreed.

Source: Cyprus News Agency