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Parties seek plan to de-link gas and Cyprob talks

The government and AKEL appear to favour a return to the Christofias-Talat agreement on hydrocarbons

By Elias Hazou

PRESIDENT NICOS Anastasiades has summoned party leaders to a meeting on Tuesday, to jointly hammer out Nicosia’s strategy regarding ongoing tensions in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The powwow’s purpose is to devise a game-plan aimed at foiling efforts by quarters abroad to link hydrocarbons exploration to reunification talks.

The meeting takes place ahead of the return to the island of UN Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide, due to arrive here next Monday.

The UN official has reportedly proposed a twin-track approach – discussing hydrocarbons not as part of, but rather parallel to peace negotiations. It’s understood this is something Nicosia is eager to avoid.

Local media report that the administration as well as main opposition AKEL agree on bringing out the deal struck between former President Demetris Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, which provided for the two communities sharing in hydrocarbons revenues but only subsequent to a comprehensive settlement.

Under the so-called Christofias-Talat convergences, federal competences incorporated in all the maritime zones without exception, their delineation with neighbouring states and the solution of disputes. It was agreed this would be done in line with the UN Law of the Sea. It was further agreed that natural resources, including natural gas, would constitute a federal competency.

The government hopes that underscoring this prior agreement will thwart any talk of joint hydrocarbons exploitation with the Turkish Cypriots while the Cyprus issue remains unsolved.

Reportedly, during Tuesday’s meeting the President will also review with party leaders whether – and how – Cyprus can move to block the opening of Turkey’s remaining EU accession chapters, ahead of the European Council taking place on December 18 and 19.

Last month Anastasiades broke off peace talks after Turkey dispatched a vessel into Cyprus’ EEZ to conduct seismic surveys on behalf of the breakaway regime. The vessel is being shadowed by Turkish warships operating in international waters.

The President has stressed he will not return to the negotiating table unless Turkey cancels a marine advisory within the EEZ and withdraws the seismic research vessel.

Ankara, which recognizes neither the Republic of Cyprus nor the latter’s jurisdiction in the EEZ, claims Greek Cypriots acted unilaterally when they began gas exploration.

The United States has said it supports Cyprus’ sovereign right to explore its natural resources, but has also lent its backing to UN efforts to bridge the current impasse and get the two leaders to resume peace talks.

US Vice-President Joe Biden is meanwhile due to visit Ankara on Friday, but although the Cyprus issue may be mentioned in his talks with Turkish leaders, his agenda will focus on the Syria crisis and the Islamic State.

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