By Elias Hazou
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades will next month attend a three-way summit in Cairo with his Greek and Egyptian counterparts to discuss ways of further boosting cooperation and relations among these three Mediterranean nations, and, from Nicosia’s perspective, as a bulwark against recent Turkish provocations inside Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Commenting on the high-level confab to be held on November 8, Anastasiades said yesterday it would take place “within the framework of the creation of a good atmosphere of cooperation with neighbouring countries, none excluded, irrespective of the deepening of relations with countries that may have certain differences among them.”
Ahead of the leaders’ summit, the foreign ministers of the three nations are scheduled to hold preparatory talks in Nicosia on October 29.
Asked whether the government was mulling steps beyond the marine agreement concluded with Athens on Monday, the President said Nicosia would be taking “measures according to developments, which will be announced.”
Sources told the Mail the Cairo summit would focus on “all manners of cooperation,” and did not rule out defence-related arrangements or a search and rescue agreement with Egypt similar to the one signed with Greece on Monday.
Earlier this month, Turkey issued a NAVTEX (marine advisory) reserving areas south of Cyprus for seismic surveys, trespassing into offshore blocks one, two, three, eight and nine of Cyprus’ EEZ. Italian company ENI is currently conducting exploratory drilling for natural gas in block nine.
Speaking on the state broadcaster, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the Cairo summit would deal with energy cooperation, including the prospect of Cypriot natural gas being supplied to liquefaction terminals in Egypt that are currently under-utilised.
On the international community’s response to Turkey – which publicly has been lukewarm – the chief diplomat said the government has the “full picture” and is satisfied with the efforts made behind the scenes to thwart or mitigate Turkish designs on Cyprus’ EEZ.
“Because we here in Cyprus are used to seeing Turkey deliver on what it says, we’re acting on the assumption that Turkey will make good on its NAVTEX threat,” he said.
Kasoulides said also that Cyprus was mulling taking recourse against Turkey at the UN Security Council, adding however that such a move has its pros and cons.
The government meantime is monitoring Turkish actions and preparing for any eventuality.
“We have formulated a specific plan, which will be executed according to developments,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told CyBC.
“We shall escalate or de-escalate our actions according to developments.” he added, noting that no one can safely predict Turkey’s conduct in the coming days and weeks.
Christodoulides said also that ENI was continuing normally its drilling operations in Block 9 of Cyprus’ EEZ.
The company had been fully aware of possible entanglements when it first bid for Cyprus’ offshore blocks, he added.
Turkish actions in the eastern Mediterranean are “frustrating” other regional countries besides Cyprus, the spokesman said. Though not naming these countries, he was confident that they would not remain “idle observers.”
In addition to the Egypt summit, it has been confirmed that Anastasiades will be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the end of the year, though the precise date and venue has yet to be determined.
Meanwhile Anastasiades will have a one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) taking place in Milan from October 15 to 17.
And the President will be attending the meeting of the European Council (October 23 to 24 October). There, he reportedly plans to deliver an address asking the Council to include in its conclusions references to Turkey’s violation of Cyprus’ sovereignty.
The Cyprus News Agency (CNA) cited diplomatic sources as saying that Anastasiades is unlikely to resume peace talks unless and until the Turkish provocations in the EEZ are lifted.
A resumption of negotiations under the current circumstances could be construed as Nicosia agreeing to joint exploitation of hydrocarbons with the Turkish Cypriots prior to a comprehensive settlement, the same sources told CNA.
Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Tuesday accused the Greek Cypriot side of walking out of the peace talks, adding that Anastasiades cannot dictate conditions for returning to the negotiating table.
“Turkey will not say yes to whatever the Greek Cypriot side wants,” Eroglu was quoted as saying by Turkish Cypriot media.
Nicosia acknowledges that the Turkish threats of seismic surveys carry more of a political than practical significance.
The swathe reserved by the Turkish advisory does not overlap with any of the areas reserved by Cyprus for drilling operations by the Italian-Korean consortium ENI-KOGAS.
Moreover, the Turkish NAVTEX – inside international waters – does not prohibit transit through the reserved area, meaning that ENI’s operations are not expected to be hampered or inconvenienced.
A look at the map shows that, even if one were inclined to afford legitimacy to the breakaway regime in the north, which Turkey does, there is no feasible way to argue the area reserved by Turkey is part of a hypothetical EEZ of the occupied areas.