October 18, 2018

Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Erato Kozakou-Markoullis at the Conference “Energy Developments, Security and Geostrategic Implications in the Eastern Mediterranean” organized by the European Party of Cyprus and the Institute of European Democrats, Nicosia, October 20, 2012

Distinguished participants,

I would like to begin by thanking the European Party of Cyprus for organizing, together with the Institute of European Democrats, this important Conference, which provides a unique opportunity to address the energy developments and the crucial geo-strategic changes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The strategically sensitive area of the Eastern Mediterranean is a geographical and political corridor where peace and conflict have competed fiercely to prevail, an area of meeting of cultures and where historic developments have taken place over the centuries. This is also the scene where since two years ago a historic transformation has unfolded in the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring embodies the hopes, the dreams and aspirations of a people for greater freedom, for dignity, and for a better and fairer distribution of economic opportunities and resources.

The first thing one realizes when looking at a map of Cyprus is its proximity to this area. In fact, Cyprus lies 105 Km and 108 Km to the West of Syria and Lebanon respectively, 200 Km to the North West of Israel and 380 Km to the North of Egypt.

Cyprus, due to its geographic position in the South Eastern Mediterranean, is highly concerned about the developments in our Southern Neighborhood. The Arab world and Israel are our closest neighbors and everything that happens in this neighborhood has a direct bearing on us. There is no other choice for Cyprus than to work together towards the stability, peace, security and economic development of these key partners and strengthening relations between us.

In this respect, the Cyprus Presidency has repeatedly expressed support for the High Representative’s efforts on the European Neighborhood Policy, notably its Southern Dimension, where the EU has committed to supporting the democratic transformation of our southern partners. In fact, bringing our partners in the Southern Neighborhood closer to the European Union is one of the Cyprus Presidency’s priorities and we are working vigilantly towards fulfilling this objective.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Recent discoveries of hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean hold out the prospect of significant benefits for the countries concerned. The commercial development of these resources will undoubtedly strengthen regional energy security and attract foreign investment which will lead to job creation; this could serve as a boost to the economies of the countries in the region. The South Eastern Mediterranean can evolve into an area of prosperity, stability and peace.

To be more specific, following the exploratory drilling of Noble Energy of last year in block 12, we now know with certainty that, apart from the known discoveries in Egypt and Israel, Cyprus has now been proven to have rich hydrocarbon deposits off its shores and within its southern Exclusive Economic Zone. Lebanon is also ready to embark on its own explorations.

In order to put things into perspective, let me just mention that the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin Province, as well as 1.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil, 223 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and 6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the Nile Delta Basin Province in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Naturally, the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits is a major development for all countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Politics aside, the enormity of investment required to exploit this offshore treasure, creates an impetus of its own toward greater cooperation.

Concurrently, it is also a development which requires a great deal of prudence and forward looking strategies and collaborations, because of the fragile nature of the region and because decisions taken today will have a determining effect for many generations to come.

We expect that the investment in infrastructure and financial structures for the servicing of the energy industry, will serve as a catalyst toward greater cooperation among neighbors. Building upon traditionally excellent bilateral relations with our neighboring countries and utilizing the existing multilateral frameworks of cooperation, we aim to promote cross-boundary cooperation in various fields related to the energy sector, including maritime affairs and environmental issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We strongly hold that not only for our immediate neighbors, but most certainly for our partners in the European Union, the presence of hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean will contribute towards greater energy security for Europe, which is constantly in search of new sources of energy.

Cyprus is working towards the goal, set by the EU, to lift the energy isolation of the member states by 2015. The government of Cyprus has defined a main goal to turn Cyprus into an energy hub of the Mediterranean for the processing and transfer of energy resources from the adjacent areas to the European markets. As a member state of the EU we have a stake in its success and therefore, our aim is for the deposits of hydrocarbons in our Exclusive Economic Zone, to benefit Europe, its economy, and by extension its international standing.

The decisions and actions of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources within its Exclusive Economic Zone fall squarely within its sovereign rights as recognized by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, of which Cyprus is a state party and are therefore in full conformity with international law.

The countries of the Eastern Mediterranean share the common goal of sustainable development and prosperity, which could result from the exploration and exploitation of their natural resources. It is our firm belief that all States in the region could peacefully cooperate and mutually respect the lawful exercise of their neighbors’ rights in the sea areas where each State has sovereignty or sovereign rights and/or exercises jurisdiction.

It is truly regrettable that not all our neighbors have reacted positively to our efforts to explore and exploit our natural resources within our EEZ. Turkey certainly has not. The threats of use of force and provocations which involved Turkish warships and aircraft, air and naval exercises in the sea south of Cyprus, and illegal seismic surveying and seabed mapping, carried out by ships on behalf of Turkey inside our Exclusive Economic Zone, constitute a blatant violation of Cypriot sovereign rights.

The only country of the region, which has failed to cooperate and enter into Agreements with its neighboring coastal States, in conformity with UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and relevant customary international law, is Turkey, which is not a party to the Convention and, in fact, continues to be one of its fiercest polemics. It is important that the EU keeps putting pressure on Turkey to cooperate with all the countries of the region and to avoid raising tensions which inevitably have a negative impact on peace and stability in the region. In this way, Turkey will become part of the vision as described above for the Eastern Mediterranean and not the cause of enduring tensions.

Our permanent aspiration and indeed our vision is to make use of the hydrocarbons as a spring board and a vehicle that will lead to a closer, more systematic and accomplished cooperation with our neighboring countries for the benefit of peace and prosperity. We look forward to linking our European partners to our friends in our immediate neighborhood, and possibly beyond, in advancing greater energy security, and by extension, broader economic security and stability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to be with you today and I wish you a productive conference.