By Elias Hazou
The Greek government said Thursday it fully backed President Nicos Anastasiades’ decision to suspend peace negotiations amid Turkish incursions into the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Samaras arrived on the island late on Thursday for talks with the government ahead of a summit in Cairo this weekend.
“This visit comes at a difficult time, both for Cyprus and the region. Turkey has chosen to act outside bounds of international law. We fully support your decision to suspend the talks until such time as conditions change,” Samaras said during a dinner held in his honour at the Presidential Palace.
Addressing the President as “My friend Nicos,” the Greek premier said he and his delegation would engage in “detailed discussions” with their Cypriot counterparts regarding the shaping situation.
In his own address, welcoming Samaras to the island, Anastasiades reiterated that he would not return to the negotiating table while Turkish provocations were ongoing.
“I shall not accept any pressure to return to dialogue…amid conditions imposed by military might,” he added, evidently alluding to the trespassing of Turkish warships in the EEZ.
The President pledged that the two communities would share in the country’s natural wealth, including proceeds from hydrocarbons, once a comprehensive settlement is reached, and not before.
“Military interventions and threats, supposedly on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots, do not assist peace efforts,” he noted.
Anastasiades said the timing of Turkey’s escalation of tensions was no coincidence, coming just as Cyprus is turning into “a force for stability in the region.”
Officially, Samaras’ mission is to discuss and assess with Cyprus the mounting Turkish provocations within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to coordinate action between Athens and Nicosia.
The talks agenda reportedly will also include moves by various quarters abroad aimed at restarting peace negotiations.
The two leaders will discuss rumoured proposals for including hydrocarbons revenues and wealth-sharing among the two communities prior to a comprehensive settlement – a position Nicosia publically rejects.
Accompanying the Greek premier is the country’s foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos and other state officials.
The Greek leader’s itinerary on Friday begins with a one-on-one meeting with Anastasiades, followed by a meeting between the two countries’ delegations. Anastasiades and Samaras will then jointly see the leaders of parliamentary parties.
Around noon Samaras is to visit parliament and meet with House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou. He will next address a special plenum session of the House of Representatives.
Anastasiades and the Greek PM depart together for Cairo for a trilateral summit there of the heads of state of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
The one-day confab, to be held on Saturday, will explore enhanced cooperation among the three Mediterranean nations in international fora, as well as the prospects for cooperation in other fields of mutual interest – particularly energy.
During the summit, issues relating to regional developments will be discussed, including Turkish violations within the Cypriot EEZ, according to an official announcement.
Other issues to be discussed include the developments in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, the current phase of the Cyprus problem, the Palestinian problem, and combating terrorism.
Cyprus’ state hydrocarbons company recently began talks with foreign corporations based in Egypt interested in gas supplies to their terminals there.
On Saturday morning, Anastasiades will hold a private meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to be followed by the trilateral summit.
A private meeting will later be held among the three leaders, and following that meeting they will give a press conference.
Afterwards, the leaders will attend a working lunch hosted by Sisi.
Accompanying the President in Cairo will be the foreign minister and the government spokesman. Anastasiades returns to Cyprus on the evening of the same day.
Last week the foreign ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Egypt met in Nicosia as the row over rights to hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean continued.
Meanwhile Cyprus and Greece this week held cross-corps military drills across the island. The exercises, reportedly supported by Israeli fighter jets, involved testing air defence systems and paratrooper drops from C-130 aircraft of the Greek Air Force.
The drills were kept under wraps – reserves were not called up – so as not to unnecessarily increase tensions in the region, daily Politis reported. The defence ministry declined comment.
The paper said the drills were being jointly coordinated by the military high commands of Cyprus and Greece.
Tensions rose late in October when Turkey despatched a research vessel into Cyprus’ EEZ to carry out seismic surveys on behalf of the breakaway regime. The move prompted Anastasiades to break off already faltering peace talks. The research vessel is being escorted by Turkish warships, which Nicosia has called a violation of the Republic’s sovereignty.
Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, nor its jurisdiction over the EEZ.