No Turco-Greek oil rift in Aegean: Energy Minister
Energy issues will not become a subject of tension between Turkey and Greece, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has said, adding that Ankara has told Athens it has no current intention of conducting exploration in the countries' shared sea. "There is no problem in energy issues," he told the Hurriyet Daily News despite a divergence of views on exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean that recently drove Greece to complain to the United Nations about Turkey's exploration efforts. "We have the intention of using energy issues not as a reason to create tension but as a reason for growth and opening. We will see whether other countries will follow this principle," Yildiz told the Daily News when asked about the recent initiative of Greece, which said on Feb. 22 that it had notified the U.N. of Turkey's granting of exploration permits for areas "on the Greek continental shelf." Greece's move came just days ahead of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' visit to Turkey, which resulted in the signing of nearly two dozen agreements on March 4. "Making explorations in areas that are open to discussion would create concerns not only with Turkey but with other countries as well," said Yildiz in reference to Greek Cyprus' decision to start explorations in the divided island's south. "We say there are two ways: You strengthen the legal basis, you withdraw from disputed areas, or, if you find something there, this should belong to the whole of Cyprus. This is only natural. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus said when we jointly started [explorations] that whatever found would be shared based on reasonable shares. Why should energy issues become the subject of tension when all of our relations with Greece are going well?" he said. "They asked, ‘Will you conduct explorations in the Aegean?' We said, ‘As of now, we will not.' Don't we know any exploration creates a controversy? Of course we know," said Yildiz. The Aegean Sea remains a cause of contention between the two countries as the two cannot agree over the borders of the continental shelf. Turkey started explorations with Turkish Cyprus off the north of the island after Greek Cyprus went ahead with offshore drilling activities in the Mediterranean. The fact that energy ministers from both sides were not present at the meetings attended by nearly a dozen ministers from each side does not mean that there is a problem on energy issues between the two governments, according to Yildiz. When asked about the fact that the Greek Cypriots and international companies had gone ahead with exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean despite warnings from Ankara, Yildiz said: "They are continuing their work. There are some companies that took into consideration our warnings and a small number of others who did not. They will make their choices and we will make our choices. I believe it will be beneficial for all for work to be done through consensus." When asked whether there was potential for the desired consensus, Yildiz said, "We saw a little bit more optimistic statements on this issue from the new leader of the Cypriot administration," in reference to Nicos Anastasiades, who won the country's recent presidential elections. While economies are becoming global, policies are becoming more national, according to Yildiz, who said projects needed to be politically feasible. "We can have results only if we can decide together in these sorts of joint areas. The countries need to meet at that politically feasible point," said Yildiz. "We never took a negative move. We always said we are ready to take a positive step all the time," he said. When asked if there had been a positive development as far as reaching a point of consensus on the issue of exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, Yildiz said interested parties needed to take into account the advantages provided by Turkey's geography. "These types of projects are not projects that you can pursue stubbornly. These are not projects that you can say, let's do it whatever the cost, even if the price of gas reaches 500 dollars. I believe the technical side of the project will bring politics to a certain level," he said. The relevant sides know these projects are not feasible without the participation of Turkey, said Yildiz.