Turkey wants share of Mediterranean energy wealth: PM06 december 2014, 12:36
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday said his country wanted a share of the energy deposits off the shores of Cyprus, an issue that has strained ties with both Nicosia and Athens, AFP reports.
"Let us jointly exploit this wealth," Davutoglu said at the start of a two-day visit to Athens for confidence-building talks with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras.
"We can link the natural gas deposit to Greece via Turkey," he told a Greek-Turkish business forum.
There is an estimated 102-170 billion cubic metres (3.6-6.0 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas reserves in an area in the eastern Mediterranean which Cyprus, backed by Greece, considers its exclusive economic zone.
Ankara does not recognise this zone, however, and recently sent a seismic vessel to conduct oil and gas survey operations until the end of the month, to the consternation of Nicosia and Athens.
Greece has termed Turkey's actions a "brutal violation" of the sovereign rights of Cyprus.
Davutoglu said he wanted to "set a benchmark for friendship and cooperation" in regional relations.
"We do not desire tension in the Aegean or the eastern Mediterranean," said the Turkish premier, who is accompanied by nine ministers.
"There are more Turkish ministers here than are left in Turkey," he joked.
The talks between Turkey and Greece are part of an initiative launched in 2010 to improve relations between the Aegean neighbours.
So far, the talks have resulted in the signing of around 50 accords on immigration, disaster response, tourism, health, transport, agriculture, immigration, culture and sport.
Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters that Samaras and Davutuglu had discussed territorial delineation in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, state news agency ANA said.
Ankara opposes the Cyprus government's exploitation of offshore energy reserves before agreement is reached on solving the decades-long division of the east Mediterranean island.
Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 following an Athens-engineered coup aimed at uniting it with Greece. The peace talks are aimed at reunifying the island.
The last round of Greek-Turkish talks had been held in Istanbul in March last year.
Greece and Turkey remain divided over territorial disputes in the Aegean despite a rapprochement in 1999 that followed back-to-back earthquakes.
The soaring of undocumented migration via Turkey towards Greece over the past decade has further strained relations.