Erdogan warns against Cyprus energy deals after ‘missed opportunity’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday warned global energy companies not to strike any deal with Cyprus for gas and oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, after talks missed a “big opportunity” to unite the divided island.

A UN-backed peace conference last week in Switzerland was billed as the best chance to end the island's four-decade division. But the discussions collapsed on Friday without an agreement.

Speaking in a keynote address to the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, Erdogan told his audience of oil bosses that now was not the time to strike deals with the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus.

“Unfortunately a big opportunity has been missed,” Erdogan said.

Turkey, which recognizes the breakaway statelet of northern Cyprus, has blamed the Greek side and said the talks’ collapse spelt the end of the UN-backed efforts to unite the island.

The island’s largely untapped gas and oil riches offshore are one of many sources of conflict between the Turkish and Greek sides.

Erdogan warned energy companies to stay away from energy deals without a solution to the Cyprus problem.

“Energy companies who involve themselves in irresponsible steps taken by the Greek Cypriot side can never be met with understanding,” the president said.

He said rich hydrocarbon resources on the island should belong to all parties, including northern Cyprus.

Erdogan warned against any step that could trigger new tensions or risk “losing Turkey’s friendship,” in an implicit warning to companies that their Turkish business could be affected.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and later occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired putsch seeking union with Greece.

It has remained divided between the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus in the south and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Turkey.