Cyprus Mail

Don’t underestimate danger to the talks from gas issue

By Stefanos Stefanou

TURKEY’S recent provocations in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus are perhaps the most serious since the declaration of the pseudo-state. As such, Turkey’s action could not have remained unanswered and measures had to be announced that would express the Republic of Cyprus’ reaction.

Within this framework, the negotiations on the Cyprus problem could not continue, given that Turkey’s actions clearly affect the entire procedure in a negative way. AKEL, in view of these developments, backed the decision for a suspension of the negotiations, stressing however that it is against their definitive termination as there is no other way to solve the problem other than negotiations between the two Cypriot communities.

The fundamental question which must be answered is: what is Turkey seeking to achieve through its actions? One of its basic goals is to provoke tension in order to turn the issue of natural gas into a bi-communal dispute and to include it in the negotiations. Speaking in the name of the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey is on the one hand trying to obstruct Cyprus from exploiting its natural gas and on the other, it aims to have a say in Cyprus’ hydrocarbons, strengthening further its participation in the energy landscape of the wider region. This is also the objective of the USA.

The danger of the natural gas issue getting bogged down must not be underestimated. The statements by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing concern about “the tensions that have arisen” and urging “all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation, are quite indicative of the approaches that prevail in the international community.

This is even more apparent when such statements, as the ones made by the UN Secretary-General, are accompanied by simultaneous statements by the US State Department, that repeat monotonously that “the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement”.

In the context of the dangers that exist, the President of the Republic must put an end to the statements made for internal consumption on the issue and focus on tackling Turkey’s policy, safeguarding the right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit its natural resources. Neither tensions, nor the messages being conveyed by the President about what he does not intend to do in relation to the negotiations are in Cyprus’ interests. We must state our readiness to take steps, provided that Turkey acts to de-escalate the tension, given that it is the one provoking and perpetuating it.

Natural gas must be used as an incentive to Turkey for the solution of the Cyprus problem. For an incentive to exist, the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign right to exploit its natural resources cannot be challenged. The Turkish Cypriot community will be able to benefit, and Turkey can aspire to cooperation and synergy with the Republic of Cyprus, if and when the Cyprus problem is solved.

In 2010 a convergence was reached in the negotiations on the Cyprus problem whereby the country’s natural resources after the solution would be the competency of the central federal state in which the Turkish Cypriots would have an effective participation. In 2011 a convergence was registered also with regards the distribution of the revenues from the exploitation of the natural resources.

Consequently, the Greek Cypriot side’s intention to cooperate on the natural gas issue is recorded in convergences which Turkey is undermining through its actions. These two convergences can and must be used so that the international community puts pressure on Turkey and not to exercise pressure on our side.
The President is the one who decides. He has a powerful tool at his disposal and must use it before this pressure is exerted.

Stefanos Stefanou is a member of the political bureau of AKEL, and a former government spokesman

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