By Jean Christou
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades said last night Turkey’s actions in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone had left him with no choice but to withdraw from the peace talks earlier in the day after reaching a consensus with the political parties.
Meetings between chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Kudret Ozersay were also cancelled as the move brought about a rare display of unity between parties and government.
“I am really saddened that due to the developments I was compelled to decide on the suspension of my participation in the talks,” Anastasiades said in a written statement responding to comments earlier in the day by Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
However, he said, at a time when the Greek Cypriot side was proposing measures for building confidence in order to create a new momentum, Turkey, “ignoring the benefits that she herself would have from the solution of the Cyprus problem” was carrying out actions that flagrantly violated the sovereignty of the Republic, strongly undermining efforts to find a solution for all Cypriots.
Eroglu said earlier yesterday the decision to suspend the negotiations on the grounds that the sovereignty of the Republic was being violated was a mistake and “incompatible with the realities of the Cyprus problem”. It was an expression of the Greek Cypriot side’s determination to ignore the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people, he said.
Eroglu said that before leaving for the UN General Assembly in New York last month, he had asked Anasatasiades to suspend the planned operations in Block 9 of the island’s EEZ for a short time but was ignored. The Greek Cypriot side, he said, was responsible for what had happened with Turkey because it had ignored warnings and suggestions.
Eroglu said he had proposed the creation of a joint committee on hydrocarbons and that the Turkish Cypriot side had been ready to discuss giving water to the south of the island from Turkey.
Anastasiades had used the activity of the Turkish navy as an excuse to break off the talks, Eroglu claimed, adding that the rights of the Turkish Cypriots would be protected with the full support of Ankara.
Anastasiades said however that he had repeatedly stated that the natural wealth of Cyprus belonged to the state and that the achievement of a solution would help the entire population of Cyprus benefit “on the basis of population ratios”.
The two leaders were due to meet on Thursday but yesterday left the UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide hanging when tomorrow’s meeting was cancelled. Eide only landed on the island yesterday afternoon as the UN was being informed of the Greek Cypriot side’s decision. Earlier it had issued a statement saying the leaders’ meeting was going ahead only have to issue a new statement a couple of hours later.
In it, the UN said Eide would now be meeting separately with the leaders today. He will be on the island until Friday. “He will hold meetings with both leaders, their negotiators, leaders of political parties as well as with several other key interlocutors, discussing the way forward in the negotiations,” the UN statement said.
The UN did not comment on the Greek Cypriot side’s decision but sources close to the negotiations told the Cyprus Mail that while he was on the island Eide would engage in ‘shuttle
diplomacy’ with the two sides. “He wants them to keep their eyes on the prize,” said the sources. It is understood the UN does not want to become involved in the row as it sees its role as a facilitator rather than mediator in the negotiations and did not want to make a mountain out of what could yet be a molehill, according to the sources.
Despite a unanimous decision by the party leaders and the government during their meeting at the palace yesterday to call on the UN, the US, the EU and the UK to put pressure on Turkey, for the most part, the island’s ‘strategic partners’ were reticent to criticise Ankara.
On Monday, the US said that while Cyprus had the sovereign right to develop its resources in its EEZ, Washington continued to believe that the natural gas and oil reserves of the island, as well as all its resources, “must be fairly shared between the two communities in the framework of a comprehensive settlement”.
Last night Britain, through a Foreign Office spokesman, told the Cyprus News Agency the incident, which had raised tensions in the region, was regrettable, and though London recognised the sovereignty of Cyprus over its EEZ, “this incident underlines the importance of a comprehensive settlement”.
“We therefore hope that settlement talks can progress successfully. There is an opportunity for Turkey to continue to demonstrate the positive role that it can play in supporting the prospects for a settlement,” he added.
In addition to pulling out of the talks, the Greek Cypriot side was said to be considering other actions involving the international community that reportedly include official complaints to the UN Security Council, the EU, and the European Parliament, writing letters to US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, attempting to freeze Turkey’s EU accession chapters, and studying legal ways to counter Turkey’s violation of the EEZ.
But so far only Greece has taken any concrete steps, making a strong demarche to Turkey’s ambassador in Athens, Kerim Uras, and summoning him to the foreign ministry in Athens.
Political analyst James Ker-Lindsay told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the international community’s position was that Cyprus is sovereign. “But to them there is a difference between what Cyprus is legally entitled to do and what is the sensible thing to do,” he said. “Sabre rattling can get out of hand quickly. Turkey is serious. The second Turkey starts this they are committed. These are not idle threats.”
Ker-Lindsay said Turkey could not allow a small country like Cyprus to make it look weak, even though Cyprus has every right not to be intimidated and to be able to exploit its full sovereignty.
“I don’t have a lot of truck with the Turkish Cypriots on this. They expect Greek Cypriots to live with the consequences of the invasion while their argument on this is about sharing after having issued their own declaration of independence,” he said.
After the meeting with the parties yesterday, Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said new measures to counter Turkey’s actions would be announced in due course as and when they were decided.
The president was in contact since Monday with European and other leaders to keep them informed on Turkish movements in the region, he added. He said Turkey’s actions had threatened security, stability and peace in the region but that Cyprus would continue to exercise its sovereign rights in its EEZ.
Asked whether there might ultimately be adverse effects on Cyprus by withdrawing from the talks, Christodoulides said: “It is clear that Turkish actions leave no other option to the Republic of Cyprus.”