Israel rejects Turkish objections to Cypriot deal

AFP, Monday 20 Dec 2010

Israel rejected Monday Turkish unease regarding a deal between Israel and Cyprus

Flags of Northern Cyprus and Turkey some 150 km east of Nicosia, in the Turkish-administered northern part of Cyprus. (Reuters)

Israel on Monday rejected Turkish objections to a deal between Israel and Cyprus saying the economic agreement was a bilateral issue and Ankara had no reason to get involved.

"This agreement is an issue between Israel and Cyprus and it in no way affects a third country," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP. "We do not see how a third country would have anything to say about it."

His comments came after Ankara summoned Israel's ambassador Gaby Levy to the foreign ministry to discuss the deal, which defines the sea border between Cyprus and Israel and delineates an exclusive economic zone between the two countries.

It will allow the two nations to move ahead in the search for energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean and is seen as part of Cyprus' ongoing efforts to uncover undersea oil and gas deposits.

The island nation has already concluded similar agreements with Egypt and Lebanon, which Ankara has urged the Arab nations to put on hold.

Turkey refuses to acknowledge the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government in the south of the island, which signed the agreement, and has no ties with it.

It is the only country to recognise the self-declared Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north.

According to Anatolia news agency, Turkish foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu warned Levy that the deal would negatively affect efforts to end the 36-year division of Cyprus.

He argued that "such unilateral moves (on behalf of the Greek Cypriots) that ignore the will of the Turkish Cypriot side will harm ongoing settlement talks on the island," the report said.

Turkey's criticism of the agreement comes as relations with the Israeli state remain strained over a deadly May 31 Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships trying to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Nine Turkish activists were killed in the raid, causing a deep crisis in previously strong ties between Israel and Turkey. Ankara has demanded Israel apologise for the incident and compensate the families of those killed.

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