By Elias Hazou
Turkey seeks to drive a wedge between Cyprus and Greece, but Nicosia and Athens are on the same page when it comes to the leveraging of the island’s offshore hydrocarbons resources, the government spokesman said on Tuesday.
Nicos Christodoulides was commenting on Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s assessment of his two-day official visit to Athens over the weekend.
Davutoglu had hinted that Turkey and Greece had reached an understanding on how to handle the issue of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.
“We have received an official briefing from Athens, we know what was discussed [in Athens], we know what positions were relayed to Turkey,” Christodoulides said.
“They are the positions of the Republic of Cyprus, which Athens fully embraces, and I reiterate that the Republic is an independent state which, at the end of the day, will make its own decisions,” he told reporters.
Asked whether Davutoglu’s remarks were typical of Turkish attempts to downgrade the Republic, the spokesman said: “No doubt. This was the goal of Mr. Davutoglu’s comments, but also plausibly to create problems in relations between Athens and Nicosia, particularly with his allusion to a joint Turkish-Greek commission to oversee research on offshore drilling.”
He said Nicosia – as it has no direct contact with Ankara – had asked the Greek government to relay its positions to Turkey on the issue of hydrocarbons.
The spokesman suggested that analogous remarks by Turkish officials should not be blown out of proportion.
“One should not allow Mr. Davutoglu’s statements, which may be geared at creating impressions or serve other expediencies, to become such a big issue.”
Weighing in, EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou said the Republic’s sovereignty is not negotiable.
“No so-called agreement for jointly managing hydrocarbons can be accepted, and talk of joint oversight of drilling by Greece and Turkey in the Republic’s Exclusive Economic Zone is inconceivable,” he noted.
Speaking to the Turkish press on his return from Greece, Davutoglu said the two nations agreed to develop a “joint formula” to revive the stalled peace talks in line with the share of the island’s natural resources.
“Of course, these are not issues to be finalised in one setting, but there is a common will on both sides to progress the talks toward a positive agenda,” Davutoglu was quoted as saying.
Davutoglu said Turkey called for comprehensive planning to expedite the reunification negotiations, and a new government to be established after the reunification would be able to further survey and research its natural resources.
Should a delay occur in reunifying the island, he added, a joint commission may be established by Turkey and Greece who will oversee research on offshore drilling.
“Both sides realised that it is not possible to drill and manage the resources by only one side. Now, an opportunity for negotiation over how to conduct these studies has presented itself and Turkey and Greece have the will to cooperate,” Davutoglu said.
“An approximate solution is on the agenda, but let me not mention it for now. In the upcoming days, there will be a meeting on the issue,” he added.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Athens on Saturday, Davutoglu called on Greece to help solve the Cyprus problem, so that “we could jointly exploit the energy wealth of the region, linking the source with Greece and the rest of Europe, through Turkey, for the benefit of everyone.”
For his part, Greek PM Antonis Samaras said Athens “understands” Nicosia’s decision to stop the talks until “the problem that had been created was solved.”
President Nicos Anastasiades pulled out of peace talks in October after Turkey despatched a research vessel to Cyprus’ EEZ.
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus nor its jurisdiction over the EEZ.
By Elias Hazou