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Anastasiades pulls out of talks (Update 2)

By Jean Christou

President Nicos Anastasiades has pulled out of talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu for the time being, the government said on Tuesday following a meeting with party leaders to decide on a response to Turkey’s announcement that it was reserving areas for seismic surveys south of the island and within Cyprus’ offshore blocks.

Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said the party leaders had accepted the recommendation of the president to suspend meetings between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and between chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Kudret Ozersay.

The two leaders were slated to meet on Thursday, and UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide was due on the island on Tuesday ahead of the meeting.

“The president briefed the leaders of the parliamentary parties on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, as well as the latest provocation by Turkey and the steps already taken by the Cyprus government and those steps it will continue to take on a diplomatic and political level,” said Christodoulides.

“The party leaders unanimously condemn and denounce Turkey’s aggressive activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic. Its actions constitute a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” It also threatens security, stability and peace in the region, he added.

Christodoulides said the party leaders called on the EU and the rest of the international community to “respond and react to this provocative behavior”. “The Republic of Cyprus will continue to exercise its sovereign rights in its EEZ,” Christodoulides said.

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.” A number of legal measures were also being studied and once a decision was taken, these would also be announced, the spokesman said.

Christodoulides also said the president was in contact since Monday with European and other leaders to keep them informed on Turkish movements in the region.

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”. Responding, Christodoulides said: “We expect all states and especially our partners in the EU, and the permanent members of the UN Security Council to respond to the actions of Turkey.”

AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou, leaving the Tuesday meeting at the palace said his party supported the president’s decision. He also said there had been a consensus among the political leaders.

DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos also welcomed Anastasiades’ decision to suspend Greek Cypriot participation in the talks over Turkey’s move.

Last Friday Turkey issued a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex), a notice to mariners advising that it was reserving areas south of Cyprus for seismic surveys from October 20 to December 30.

Inside block 9, the area reserved by the Turkish advisory directly borders – but does not overlap – the area where the Italian-Korean consortium ENI-KOGAS is currently conducting exploratory drilling for natural gas, on licence from the Republic of Cyprus.

Though the Turkish NAVTEX does not overlap the area where ENI is currently operating, it could hamper future ENI operations at other locations within block 9.

Christodoulides said the government was in constant contact with ENI but declined to comment further.

“The activities of the company are continuing,” he said.

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