Britain’s High Commissioner in Nicosia Steven Lillie has been called to the Foreign Ministry over statements made by Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan’s on Cyprus’ EEZ in the House of Commons.
President Nicos Anastasiades has branded the remarks as ‘”unacceptable.”
Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the president will also be writing to UK Prime Minister on the issue.
“The only thing I have to add to the position given by the President of the Republic yesterday is that the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom has been called to the Foreign Ministry so that the necessary representations can be made to his country regarding the unfortunate statements of the deputy minister,” Prodromou said.
At the same time the president will be contacting Prime Minister Theresa May in writing, the spokesman added.
The Cyprus government and political parties have taken issue with Duncan after he told the House of Commons that exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons should not be taking place in areas where sovereignty is “under dispute”.
Duncan, who was responding to questions by MPs, was referring to Turkey’s decision to launch drilling activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
Invited to comment on Duncan’s statement, Anastasiades described him as “unacceptable”, noting that the British Minister had behaved in the same way in the past, and that the necessary representations will be made to Prime Minister May.
Duncan “has been and continues to be unacceptable” the President said, adding that his stance does not reflect the right policy which Britain should follow given its interests in Cyprus.
Moreover Anastasiades noted the unprecedented support which Britain enjoyed during the current crucial period for her by a small country like Cyprus, which, however, has a voting right in the EU as all other member states.
Earlier, the Foreign Office sought to clarify its position regarding the remark about the remarks.
In reply to a request on behalf of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK by Mike Freer MP for clarification on Sir Alan’s statement, the Foreign Office initially repeated the same statement: “The position of the UK is that, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute.”
Then it repeated the previously stated UK position on the Cypriot EEZ: “We recognise the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed Exclusive Economic Zone. We believe Cyprus’ oil and gas should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots, as the Foreign Office has said before.”