Turkey has welcomed a historic maritime demarcation agreement between Israel and Lebanon that was finalized on Thursday, as Ankara hopes the US-brokered deal could serve as an example for resolving energy disputes on divided Cyprus, drawing reactions from Greek Cypriots.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a letter on Thursday in Jerusalem, where he stated a deal with Beirut was a "tremendous achievement" akin to Lebanon's de facto recognition of its neighbor.
"It is not every day that an enemy country recognizes the state of Israel, in a written agreement, in view of the international community," Lapid told his Cabinet in public remarks.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun also signed a separate letter approving the deal at his palace in western Lebanon, where he was joined by US energy czar Amos Hochstein who brought the sides together.
But in a pre-recorded interview aired later on Thursday, Aoun said the accord was only “technical” and would have "no political dimensions or impacts that contradict Lebanon's foreign policy".
'This model which reflects similar practices in the world, sets a good example for the region and in particular for the Turkish and Greek Cypriots' the Turkish statement said
The news was nonetheless welcomed in Ankara where the Turkish Foreign Ministry said they “hope that this agreement will contribute to peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, already facing a number of challenges.”
“This model which reflects similar practices in the world, sets a good example for the region and in particular for the Turkish and Greek Cypriots,” the statement said.
But Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades took issue with the statement, saying on Friday that Turkey had rejected a Greek Cypriot proposal to take delineation issue to The Hague.
“It is well known that we submitted a similar proposal, that is, dialogue between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey or even resorting to the international court in The Hague for delineating the EEZ of each country, on the basis always of the Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as international law.
“They rejected it,” Anastasiades said.
Also on Friday a Greek Cypriot delegation was in Lebanon for talks on maritime border delineation, according to Reuters. The two sides have long-standing unresolved issues that resurfaced after news of Beirut and Tel Aviv being sounded out by Washington.
Ankara in its statement said the agreement also “envisages a joint development model and revenue sharing through third party operator for certain hydrocarbon license areas within the two countries' continental shelf.”
Anastasiades acknowledged that a peaceful solution between Lebanon and Israel “could serve as a prototype” but then went on to touch on the Cyprus Problem.
“Our occupied homeland is not a separate state entity that we could just take on such advice,” Anastasiades said, arguing that Turkey was disputing 40% of the exclusive economic zone declared by the Republic of Cyprus as well as violating the rights of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
But Ankara says the Turkish Cypriots had proposed offshore cooperation on natural gas with the Greek Cypriots multiple times in 2011, 2012, 2019, and 2022.
“In fact, last July, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus made a cooperation proposal to the Greek Cypriot side based on a joint development approach through determining equitable revenue sharing percentages, without prejudice to the existing rights of international oil companies; and offered to establish a joint committee for this purpose,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
Cyprus remains divided for half a century with a Greek Cypriot south representing the Republic of Cyprus in the United Nations and the European Union and a Turkish Cypriot north not recognized by any country except Turkey.
Multiple efforts to reunify the island under a federal solution have failed, with Greek Cypriots sticking to federal talks and Turkish Cypriots in the north saying the south is insincere.