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Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Turkish foreign minister proposes visit to Cyprus

TURKISH Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has proposed that he and his Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos visit President Nicos Anastasiades when he returns to Cyprus as a step towards defusing the tensions of Turkey’s violation of the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

According to the Cyprus News Agency, Venizelos thought it was a “good idea”. The two men met on Friday in Thessaloniki on the sidelines of the meeting of foreign ministers of member countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, BSEC.

CNA said Venizelos and Cavusoglu had discussed the Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros’ survey within Cyprus’ EEZ and the Greek minister had told his Turkish counterpart that it was “a violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic.”

They also reportedly discussed what needed to be done to bring the two sides in Cyprus back to the negotiating table. The Greek Cypriot side withdrew from the talks in October when Turkey issued its NAVTEX for exploration.

No details were given as how the Turkish Foreign Minister’s visit could or would happen. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus in which case the meeting would have to take place in the UN-controlled buffer zone.

Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Cavusoglu was welcome to visit the Republic of Cyprus, through the legal entry points, and meet with Anastasiades at the presidential palace.

CNA reported later that on Friday afternoon, Cavusoglu called Anastasiades in New York where he underwent heart surgery, to wish him well.

The two men did not discuss anything else, the report said.

Citing Foreign ministry sources in Ankara, CNA said the proposal was along the lines of an older suggestion by Prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu for the premiers of Greece and Turkey to visit the island’s communities – “first the south and then the north.”

No dates were discussed, the sources said.

In fresh comments, Christodoulides rejected any suggestion of a four-partite meeting.

“We do not participate in such meetings and anyway Greece is not willing to take part in such a meeting either,” the spokesman said. “We reject this proposal.”

Meanwhile, it was announced that UN special advisor Espen Barth Eide was expected on the island between December 16 and 17 for meetings with the negotiators.

Energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said Cyprus’ planning and activity in its EEZ was continuing as scheduled, regardless of statements by Turkish officials.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event on Friday presenting a study on the new regulations in the electricity market, Lakkotrypis referred to ENI’s research progress, saying the drilling continues somewhat slower than anticipated due to “certain technical difficulties.”

However, he confirmed ENI will have the results from the Onasagoras reserve within December.

“We expect the results from Onasagoras within December, and will coordinate any announcements with the company,” he said. “But planning to move the platform to the second drill, in fields 2, 3 and 9, is already underway.”

“We are pressing ahead as scheduled, and any technical difficulties are dealt with as they come up,” he added.

Asked whether drilling operations have been affected by Turkey’s attempts to raise obstacles, the Energy minister repeated the government’s position that Cyprus moves ahead with its plans as scheduled.

“We are expecting the results of initial exploratory drilling to establish the existence and extent of quantities,” he said.

Elaborating on the “technical difficulties” that have come up, Lakkotrypis said they relate to increased pressure at the depth ENI is currently drilling, and they relate to the seabed’s geology.

“High pressure at the drilling location has forced the company to move ahead at a pace slightly slower than planned,” he said.

Lakkotrypis was also asked to comment on Turkey’s stated intention to introduce a drilling platform into the eastern Mediterranean, wrongly attributed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Thursday, Erdogan said in an address that Turkey will “defend Turkish Cypriots’ rights until the end,” before announcing plans to build its own platform to pursue drilling in the Black Sea.

Lakkotrypis said that the statements of Turkish President showed that Ankara could not find any companies from which to lease a platform because no one wanted to be involved in any violations carried out by Turkey in the region. The same applied to the Barbaros and that was why Turkey had built its own seismic vessel, he said.

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