Turkey Ready To Drop Gas Exploration If Cyprus Does - Report

ANKARA (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 23, 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is willing to drop controversial plans for offshore gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean if its rival Cyprus is willing to do the same, the Anatolia news agency reported Friday.

Erdogan made the comments to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon late Thursday on the margins of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, the agency said.

"If the two parties renounce natural gas exploration, we will accept it," Erdogan was quoted by aides as saying, according to the agency.

Erdogan also asked Ban to intervene with the Cypriot government in Nicosia to urge them to stop their offshore explorations.

If Nicosia refuses, it will "sabotage" the negotiations between Greek and Turkish leaders to reach any agreement on reunification of the island which has been divided since the 1974 conflict, the agency said.

"The unilateral decisions and initiatives of the Greek Cypriot administration are a risk to peace," Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Turkey alone recognizes the Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north of the island, while the international community recognizes the Greek Cypriot state comprising the rest of the island.

Regional tensions have been rising as Nicosia has made a deal with U.S. energy firm Noble Engineering Inc, which has started exploratory drilling for gas off the south coast.

Turkey has threatened to start its own oil and gas exploration with military escort in retaliation.

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