The president of the Republic of Cyprus says a resumption of talks to reunify the island is unlikely because of Turkey’s blockade of offshore gas search attempts and “unacceptable” demands by Turkish Cypriots.
President Nicos Anastasiades told MPs that he was ready to negotiate when Turkey stopped its “illegal” action.
“Unfortunately Turkey, and our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, appear not to be willing [to hold talks] but by resorting to more violations of international law and unacceptable demands make the resumption of talks impossible, at least at the present time,” he said.
Anastasiades added that demands by Turkish Cypriots over the gas search were aimed to serve Ankara’s interests.
He said the management of natural gas resources had been agreed in peace talks by his predecessor and the previous Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
The pariah state in occupied northern Cyprus is only recognised by Turkey.
He said only a negotiated settlement could ensure peace, but any deal must eclipse Turkey’s guardianship of Turkish Cypriots and, by extension, its control of the northern third of the island.
This month Turkish warships – as happened in 2014 – prevented a rig from reaching an area southeast of Cyprus where Italian energy giant Eni was due to drill for gas.
Ankara claimed that it deployed the vessels to safeguard the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey refuses to cede those waters to Greek Cyprus and warned it could take further action if development continued.
Cyprus has been drilling off its coast for years in the hope of finding a gas field to rival Egypt’s vast Zohr reserves. The massive discovery south of the island, in a field known as Calypso this month opens the potential for the government to supply Europe with energy.
But Turkey’s foreign ministry said it was “determined to take the necessary steps” to support its Cypriot client state and accused the Greek side of “irresponsibly jeopardising the security and stability of the eastern Mediterranean region”.
Turkey blamed energy exploration for breaking last year’s reunification talks.
“[A]s long as the Greek-Cypriot administration continues its unilateral hydrocarbon-related activities, it will remain evident just how far removed the Greek-Cypriot side is from perceiving the Turkish Cypriots as their equal partners,” the foreign ministry said.
Mona Sukkarieh of the Beirut-based Middle East Strategic Perspectives (MESP) said the gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean were fuelling disputes between Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Cyprus, rather than alleviating them.
“Shared interest in [energy resources] might provide an incentive for cooperation among countries of the region that already enjoy more or less good relations,” she said. “But it is equally conceivable that they could fuel rivalries as well, like we are seeing lately with Turkey.”
Northern Cyprus remains an isolated curiosity. Picture credit: Flickr