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Cablegate: Cyprus to Pursue Low-Key Approach On Turkish

VZCZCXRO3717
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHNC #0912 3231431
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181431Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY NICOSIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9336
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5323

UNCLAS NICOSIA 000912

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EWWT ENRG GR TU CY
SUBJECT: CYPRUS TO PURSUE LOW-KEY APPROACH ON TURKISH
MARITIME ISSUE

REF: A. ANKARA 1986
B. NICOSIA 910

1. (SBU) U/S of Energy, Solon Kassinis, told econoff that the
recent events involving ships conducting seismic soundings
off SW Cyprus and near Kastelorizo Greece and Greek and
Turkish warships were "nothing unusual" and should be
"downplayed." He criticized Cyprus MFA for calling in the P-5
Ambassadors regarding the incidents, arguing that "this plays
right into Turkish hands." The U/S claims he has spoken to
President Christofias about the matter and the President has
agreed with Kassinis' low-key approach.

2. (SBU) Kassinis further believes that sending a ship to
conduct geophysical research off Kastelorizo was similarly
designed to raise the profile of Turkey's maritime claims at
the same time as these claims were being asserted by Turkey
off Cyprus. The action of the Greek naval vessel was "rising
to the Turkish bait' Kassinis asserted. He encouraged the US
and other P-5 nations to quietly urge the Turkish government
to exercise restraint in this matter given the sensitivity of
the settlement negotiations in Cyprus and the fact that
maritime border issues have been a problem for decades.
Kassinis says he will ask the seismic ships under GoC
contract to pull well back from the northern portions of the
blocs they are exploring and may "even send them to Egypt for
a month or so."

3. (SBU) Kassinis returned to Cyprus on Sunday from a
conference in Las Vegas where he quietly (no press) announced
the next round of bidding for offshore exploration blocs. He
claims major companies, including Chevron, will buy the
seismic data on the blocs and he expects them to bid. He will
attend a conference in London next week where he will present
data to another forty-two energy companies. No media have
reported on Cyprus opening the next round of bidding nor has
the Cyprus press reported that at the end of October Noble
Energy became the first company to agree to an offshore
exploration and production agreement with the RoC.

4. (SBU) Comment: Kassinis' main interest is ensuring the
maximum number of bidders for the next round of offshore
tenders. Given the timing of these incidents just after
Kassinis made his announcement of the next round of bidding,
Turkey's actions do appear designed to make potential bidders
back off. The GoC is willing to keep calm and avoid any
escalation of this matter, but would appreciate our quietly
urging the Turks to show similar restraint. Kassinis fully
expects future such incidents to occur.
Urbancic

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