The Turkish Cypriot side is merely using the hydrocarbons issue as an excuse not to return to the negotiating table, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Wednesday.
In comments to public broadcaster Cybc following the departure late on Monday of the drillship Saipem 12000 belonging to Italian giant ENI, which was under a Turkish blockade for two weeks, Christodoulides said the Turkish side was simply not ready to resume talks.
He said that although the UNSG’s Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar had met Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Tuesday and the Greek Cypriot side had been briefed, “we have not heard anything new from what we have heard through public statements recently”.
“What everyone understands, including the international component, is that the Turkish side is invoking the issue of energy because they are not ready to resume talks,” Christodoulides said. This was clear because the issue of natural resources had been resolved at the negotiating table a long time ago, he added. Also, he said, there did not seem to be any willingness on the part of the Turkish side to end the provocations within the island’s EEZ.
“The Turkish Cypriots must decide what future they want, with Turkey or with a reunited Cyprus as an EU member state. We need to be very careful not to create the impression that the issue of gas is the reason why the talks do not resume.”
Christodoulides also responded to recent tough stances taken by the north’s ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay and ‘energy minister’ Ozdil Nami putting forward ultimatums that either the Turkish Cypriots co-manage the gas plans or they should be frozen pending a solution. Nami also threatened that Turkey would prevent drilling plans in all of Cyprus’ EEZ blocks, while Ozersay suggested that the Turkish side “should continue acting in a deterrent manner”. He also said that “if necessary” a bilateral “delimitation agreement” with Greek Cypriots for separate EEZs “might come onto the agenda”.
Christodoulides dismissed the comments of both, saying they were acting with an eye on the Turkish Cypriot elections in 2020. But President Nicos Anastasiades responded to Ozersay’s comment later on Wednesday saying he wished to handle the situation “in a calm manner, with patience and tolerance”. Actions were being taken through diplomacy, he added.
Meanwhile Turkish media reported on Wednesday that Ankara had sent a “mini fleet’ to the east of the ‘TRNC’ to keep an eye on the situation in the Aegean Sea and the hydrocarbons’ exploration of the Greek Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey had sent two frigates, one corvette, two assault boats and one oil carrier, media said, celebrating the fact that the ENI drillship had left Cyprus’ EEZ.
Also in Cyprus on Wednesday was Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. During his visit he is to meet peacekeepers, members of the diplomatic community and the Committee on Missing Persons.
The aim of the visit is to monitor the implementation of the strategic review of Unficyp. Reports said he would also meet the leaders of the two communities and that it was almost certain Lacroix would convey to UNSG Antonio Guterres the views of the two leaders on the negotiations.