By George Psyllides
THE United Nations on Wednesday urged restraint after the Greek Cypriot side pulled out of reunification talks in response to Turkey’s announcement that it was reserving areas for seismic surveys off the island’s south coast in violation of Cyprus’ sovereignty.
UN special adviser Espen Barth Eide also signaled he would be engaging in proximity talks as he encouraged the leaders of the two communities to find the way to return to the negotiating table.
“I think it’s very important now that everybody acts responsibly and avoid further escalation and that we, as soon as possible, create an understanding that the oil and gas resources, as President (Nicos) Anastasiades has repeatedly stated, is for all Cypriots,” Eide told reporters after meeting Anastasiades on Wednesday morning.
“It’s a serious issue that we also see in all the parts of the world when you have maritime disputes, it illustrates one of the points that I have raised earlier in my presence here which is that oil and gas can be either a blessing or curse. If it is well managed it will be a source of wealth for all Cypriots, if it becomes a source of tension it will be a problem for everyone and then it will more of a curse than a solution.”
Anastasiades pulled out of talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Tuesday in response to Turkey’s announcement that it was reserving areas for seismic surveys south of the island and within Cyprus’offshore blocks starting October 20.
Eide said he will continue to talk with the two sides about how to develop ideas for finding a solution.
“I recognise that this is a very tense moment because the situation has become more complex given the developments at sea. But I also underline what I told you and both sides when I was here first that there are strategic reasons why the status quo is utterly unacceptable.”
Anastasiades has asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to urge Turkey to stop violating Cyprus’ sovereignty, warning that such actions “would deal a heavy blow to the negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus problem.”
“They have the potential to destroy the efforts of creating a good and positive environment and actually derail the whole negotiating process,” the president said in a letter to Ban.
Anastasiades added that “given the Turkish threats and blackmail, I am obliged to suspend my participation to the meetings with Mr. Eroglu under the aegis of Espen Eide on the 9th and 10th October to allow time to your Excellency and other Governments, friends to your good offices mission to convince Turkey to reconsider.”
The president said Turkey’s intentions and their timing were of great concerns.
“They point to the increasingly aggressive nature of Turkey’s actions in areas in Eastern Mediterranean under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus. Their timing, in the midst of a process aiming to reunify the island, serves only to undermine the process and to raise more doubts as to Turkey’s commitment to it.”
Speaking after a meeting with Eroglu on Wednesday afternoon, Eide said he will talk to Ankara about the matter, stressing that the status quo was unacceptable.
Eide said the discovery of hydrocarbons would be a blessing if the island was reunited through an agreed solution.
Without that “this is possibly a curse for Cypriots because it will create more tension.”
Ankara said it expected the Greek Cypriot side to reverse its decision and resume talks or risk harming peace prospects in a troubled region.
“The (decision) is unfortunate, and I don’t think it’s sustainable. I expect the (Greek) Cypriot administration to change this wrong decision quickly,” Volkan Bozkir, minister for European Union Affairs, said during a news conference.
“This is saddening as it harms glimmers of hope for our region, which is undergoing huge problems … We hope that all of those who have an interest in peace and stability in the region will contribute to changing this decision that has surprised everyone,” Bozkir said, calling on Greece, the United States and the EU to intervene to keep the peace talks on track.
Bozkir reiterated Turkey’s claims that the Republic was exploiting the island’s natural resources and excluded Turkish Cypriots from their share.
Meanwhile, the Greek ambassador to Ankara Kyriakos Loukakis was summoned by the Turkish foreign ministry following the suspension of the talks, Anadolu news agency said, quoting an unnamed diplomatic source.
According to Anadolu, Loukakis met with Deputy Undersecretary Ahmet Muhtar Gun who urged him to encourage the Greek Cypriot side to put in more efforts into the suspended peace talks.
The move is seen as retaliation for the summoning in Athens of the Turkish ambassador by the Greek foreign ministry.