Tensions with Turkey increase over maritime border deal

Turks reportedly rebuke Israeli envoy over Cyprus accord; Israeli official calls Turkish claims "chutzpa that is unheard of."

December 20, 2010 05:29
2 minute read.
Offshore Leviathan gas field.

leviathan gas drill. (photo credit: (Albatross))


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Already tense relations between Israel and Turkey may have gotten worse on Sunday in the midst of a disagreement over an accord signed between the Jewish State and Cyprus demarcating their maritime borders to facilitate a search for mineral deposits in the east Mediterranean. Huge natural gas reserves have been discovered in the area.

Gabi Levi, Israel's ambassador to Turkey, was reportedly rebuked by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, after National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau signed the deal with Cyprus on Friday.

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Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu warned the Israeli envoy that the agreement would adversely impact negotiations to end the division of Cyprus between its Turkish and Greek sides.

"Such unilateral moves that ignore the will of the Turkish Cypriot side will harm ongoing settlement talks on the island," AFP quoted Sinirlioglu as saying.

An Israeli government source rejected Turkey's objections to the deal on Sunday, Israel Radio reported.

There is no connection between the Turkey-Cyprus maritime border and the Israel-Cyprus maritime border, the source maintained.

The Israeli source added that Turkish claims to the maritime area based on their occupation of northern Cyprus constitute "chutzpa that is unheard of in the international arena."

Turkey strongly objects to the Greek Cypriot search for oil and gas inside the island's 51,000 square-kilometer (17,000 sq. mile) exclusive economic zone off its southern coast, saying it also has rights and interests in the area.

Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The island joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys membership benefits. Turkey only recognizes the breakaway north where it maintains 35,000 troops.

Cyprus has similar agreements with Egypt and Lebanon, but the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify the deal.

Cyprus Energy Service Director Solon Kassinis said Cyprus' agreement with Israel "doesn't conflict" with its deal with Lebanon.

Lebanese lawmakers have said that some of Israel's recently discovered gas fields stretch into Lebanese territorial waters. Israel has denied the charge.

The Lebanese terror group Hizbullah has threatened to use force to protect Lebanon's natural wealth.

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