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Cyprus-UK crisis erupts from Alan Duncan’s statement on the Cypriot EEZ

Anastasiades to talk with Mei, formal complaint to be sent to the British government

By Michalis Michael

Cyprus’s domestic political scene has turned into a field of intense confrontation, after the unexpected and unpleasant statement of Britain’s Europe Minister, Sir Alan Duncan. The British minister, in his speech on Tuesday in the House of Commons, described the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus as an area of “disputed sovereignty”, saying that no drilling should be carried out in such areas. This statement came as a response to a question about the Turkish illegal activities inside the Cypriot EEZ, during questions on foreign policy issues. In particular, the British Labor MP, Pampos Charalampous, urged Foreign Office ministers to condemn Turkey’s decision to launch drilling for oil and gas in Cyprus’s territorial waters and to call on Ankara to immediately withdraw its vessels from the Cypriot EEZ.

The statement was followed by a strong reaction by the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, with sources close to the Cypriot president, recalling the attitude of Alan Duncan in Crans-Montana, which Greek Foreign Minister at the time, Nikos Kotzias, had causticized. Alan Duncan’s attitude does not reflect the right policy that Great Britain should follow, said the President of the Republic. During his arrival at the General Assembly of OEB, and asked to comment on statements of the British official, the President of the Republic said that “Mr Alan Duncan has been and remains unacceptable. The relevant letter of complaint will be sent to the Prime Minister, because I think that his whole attitude does not reflect the right policy that Great Britain should follow, with all its interests in Cyprus, while the support that Britain has in the crucial period it went through was unprecedented, even from our small country which has the same vote as the rest”.

“It is not the first time that the said gentleman’s behavior is recorded”, the Cypriot President added. To the question whether these are behaviors similar to those Mr Dancan exhibited in Crans-Montana”, the President replied “certainly yes”.

The Foreign Office statement

The Foreign Office has issued a statement on Tuesday in an attempt to clarify the position Sir Alan Duncan has taken in the House of Commons. The statement was issued as an answer to the pro-Cypriot Conservative North London MP Mike Fryer, who asked for clarification on Dankan’s position on behalf of the National Cyprus Federation of the United Kingdom. The statement by the British Foreign Ministry begins with the reiteration of the Minister of Europe’s wording: “The position of the United Kingdom is that, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, exploratory drilling cannot be conducted in any area in which the sovereignty is disputed”.

“We recognize the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit oil and gas in its internationally agreed Exclusive Economic Zone. We believe that the oil and gas of Cyprus should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots, as the Foreign Office has already said”. Cypriot community actors have pointed out that the statement is not clear enough, despite the fact that it was intended to clarify the British position.

The Alan Dancan of Crans-Montana

As already mentioned, it is not the first time Cypriot diplomacy is facing this particular British official. During the Meeting on the Cyprus problem in Switzerland, and in particular in Crans-Montana, Cypriot diplomats believed that all of Dankan’s involvement in the discussions was a deterrent to success and that he kept a pro-Turkish position, almost without pretenses.

His attitude had led Greek Foreign Minister at the time, Nikos Kotzias, to state that Greece would remember Mr. Duncan’s position when the time would come to discuss the Brexit.

Among the reactions recorded, there is also the one from the National Cyprus Federation of the United Kingdom, which urges the British Government to call on Turkey to withdraw its warships and drillships from the EEZ of Cyprus. The same call has been issued by the Labor Party, the National Scottish Party, the Conservative MPs, Theresa Villiers, Matthew Offord, Sir Roger Gale, Julian Knight and Labor MP Pambos Charalampous./ibna

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