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Cyprus Energy Exploration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

CYPRUS ENERGY EXPLORATION -- (Senate - March 29, 2007)

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, the island of Cyprus has a longstanding reputation as a place of natural beauty and rich history. It is now emerging as a potential source of energy as well. Developed responsibly, oil and gas deposits under the island's southern continental shelf could provide an alternative source of hydrocarbons at a time when many European countries are struggling to diversify their energy supplies. If this ambition is realized, Cyprus could play an important role in promoting regional energy security.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus, ROC, is working to establish partnerships with foreign companies and countries in an effort to bring these energy resources online. This process is being needlessly complicated, however, by individuals in Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community who are discouraging foreign partners from working with the ROC. In view of this behavior, I believe it is important to affirm the ROC's right to search for and develop resources located under Cyprus' continental shelf.

Under international law, there is no question about the legality of the Cypriot Government's activities. The legal principles at issue are codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Cyprus is a party. The ROC has entered into agreements delineating its Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, with Egypt and Lebanon and the areas under consideration for development are well within these boundaries. There is simply no juridical basis to dispute Cyprus' claims or actions.

I hope that both Ankara and leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community will cease their efforts to obstruct the exploration of Cypriot waters. Strong-arm diplomacy aimed at scaring away potential Cypriot business partners will only delay the peaceful reunification of Cyprus--and with it the day when all Cypriots can benefit from the island's energy resources.

I want to reiterate my longstanding call for both Cypriot communities to push forward with the technical talks and negotiations that I believe can reunify the island. However, in doing so, I want to caution that attempts to interfere in Cyprus' legitimate energy exploration activities will only complicate negotiations to end the estrangement of the island's peoples.

The country of Cyprus has long been a key partner for the United States, and our friendship rests on the bedrock of shared democratic values. In a global energy market dominated by authoritarian regimes, I believe it is important for Cyprus to push forward with plans to survey its energy assets. I sincerely hope that other parties will respect Cyprus' right to pursue this undertaking.

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