NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus on Thursday decried an undersea pipeline carrying fresh water from Turkey to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, saying it aims to further cement Ankara's grip on the ethnically-divided island.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry said that completion of the 66.5-mile (107-kilometer) pipeline violates international law, serves to "integrate" the north and to "augment Turkey's influence and control over Cyprus."
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and still maintains 35,000 troops in the north.
"With this action, Turkey bolsters its presence in the occupied areas, not only through the ownership of the resource which will be conveyed to Cyprus, but also by dictating the terms of its management," a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to inaugurate the project Saturday. The Foreign Ministry said completion of the project comes at a time when renewed peace talks between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are entering a "critical phase."
Turkish officials said the pipeline will supply around 2.6 billion cubic feet (75 million cubic meters) of water annually, enough to meet the north's irrigation and drinking water needs for a half century. Turkey has offered to share the water with Greek Cypriots once the island is reunified.
But the Cypriot Foreign Ministry said Turkey's argument that the water could benefit all of Cyprus is without merit because the pipeline cannot meet the entire island's fresh water needs.
Cyprus is prone to droughts and Greek Cypriots rely on four desalination plants and a dam network for fresh water.
The Foreign Ministry said an overarching strategy to tackle issues such as the island's water supply problems can be forged only after reunification.