Egypt defends Cyprus gas deal after Turkey criticism
09 Feb 2018 - 0:08
Cairo: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Thursday defended the legality of a 2003 maritime agreement with Cyprus to boost gas exploration after his Turkish counterpart called it "null and void".
In 2003 Egypt and Cyprus signed an agreement to set up an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean to increase exploration for gas in the area.
Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of Cyprus since 1974, has repeatedly voiced opposition to drilling off Cyprus.
And ties between Cairo and Ankara have been strained since Egypt's army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
In an interview with a Greek newspaper interview this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed the 2003 agreement between Cairo and Nicosia as "null and void".
Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid reacted on Wednesday by warning Turkey against "any attempt to infringe on Egypt's sovereign rights".
And on Thursday Shoukry insisted on the "validity of the accord", in statement to reporters.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.
The European Union member has been actively searching for gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
But Turkey argues that the breakaway statelet of northern Cyprus it controls has rights to any reserves discovered.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim cautioned the Greek Cypriot government against "one-sided and dangerous" steps.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also warned global companies to stay away from any energy deal with the Greek Cypriots or lose Ankara's friendship.
Earlier Thursday, Cyprus announced that exploratory drilling by Italy's ENI and France's Total have discovered "extensive" gas reserves off the Mediterranean island.
Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said the data obtained "demonstrates the existence of an extensive column of pure gas".
Egypt, meanwhile, inaugurated in December the offshore Zohr gas field, said to be the biggest in the Mediterranean and discovered by ENI.