Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Talks Energy

Barbaros is main stumbling block in resuming talks

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides

By Jean Christou

IF Turkey wants to solve the Cyprus problem as soon as possible, its seismic survey vessel Barbaros should move itself from the equation so talks can resume, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said yesterday.

Kasoulides was speaking during a Q&A following a luncheon speech he gave to the Alumni Association of the Cyprus International Institute of Management (CIIM) in Nicosia on the upgraded role of Cyprus in the region as a stabilising factor and an energy hub for Europe.

He said that in September, the two sides had agreed to enter a new phase of discussions on the Cyprus talks as of the beginning of October and then Turkey “suddenly decided” to send the Barbaros into the economic zone (EEZ) “seeking to debate the issue of hydrocarbons at the negotiating table”.

“If the Greek Cypriot side accepts this, it would complicate the Cyprus issue further,” Kasoulides said, adding that it would also set a new kind of precedent in the negotiations.

“This type of trend would lead to blackmail and muscle-flexing and would not be the right way to sit at a negotiating table on equal terms,” he added.

“If Turkey wants to solve the Cyprus problem as soon as possible… and Turkish Cypriots want to benefit… then the Barbaros must remove itself from the middle and the talks must resume.”

The UN, he said, “unfortunately” has a tendency to suggest the ‘middle way’ forward but this, he added, would allow those who caused the problem in the first place to continue the same way in the future.

He was referring to a proposal by UN Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide for a twin-track process whereby an advisory panel would be set up to deal with technical aspects of managing natural gas and energy in a reunified island, parallel to the peace negotiations proper.

“We cannot solve the Cyprus problem this way despite our great desire to solve the problem,” said Kasoulides.

In his speech, Kasoulides said the benefit for the whole region and for Turkey itself would be huge if Ankara was to adopt a constructive role when it came to Cyprus’ EEZ but especially in achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem.

“If the Turkish side is positive, then we reiterate that we are determined to work to build a new relationship between Cyprus and Turkey that will lead to solving the Cyprus problem, thereby contributing to regional peace, stability and prosperity,” he said.

Asked about an escrow account for gas revenues for the Turkish Cypriots, Kasoulides said: “We are working on this idea and we will have something to announce soon,” he said.

Answering another question, regarding Israel’s professed interest in the East Med Pipeline, the foreign minister said that a study was underway to determine whether such a project is financially as well as geologically feasible.

“We believe Israel’s stated decision to work with Cyprus for a network linking the countries of the eastern Mediterranean is a particularly positive development, and toward which the two governments are working systemically.”

The gas pipeline project, so far a concept on paper alone, would run from offshore deposits in the eastern Mediterranean to Cyprus, Crete, western Greece, the Peloponnese and Epirus, northwest Greece, before eventually connecting with the Greek-Italian IGI pipeline. The pipeline is intended to carry gas from Israeli deposits to Europe.

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