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Present and former experts advise president

President Nicos Anastasiades with former president George Vassiliou and Demetris Christofias

By Jean Christou

PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades on Friday met former presidents Demetris Christofias and George Vassiliou to pick their brains about the way forward in the wake of the second Turkish NAVTEX for exploration within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Later in the morning he met former foreign ministers Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Markos Kyprianou, George Iacovou, and Nicos Rolandis, plus current minister Ioannis Kasoulides, and after that, members of his negotiating team. He also met with the newly-former Geostrategic Council later on Friday.

The president briefed all those he met on the current situation but primarily wanted to hear their opinions on how a way forward could be accomplished for the resumption of Cyprus talks.

The small window of opportunity when the first Turkish NAVTEX ended on December 30 failed to produce a solution and the new NAVTEX was issued on January 5 and is due to run until April.

The former presidents and foreign ministers are expected to submit their ideas and another meeting might also be held to discuss them further.

Only Christofias made statements after the meeting.

“We listened carefully to the positions of president. The continued NAVTEX obliges our side to address this issue with the international community, particularly the UN so that Turkey can be convinced to end this blatant provocation and violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ,” he said.

The fixed position of the government however, he added, was clearly aimed at the domestic front, and he suggested the negotiating team reverted to the convergences he himself had reached when negotiating with Mehmet Ali Talat. This said Christofias, would resolve the current stalemate and the talks could resume.

“Otherwise, the stagnation will continue and the Cypriot people will continue to pay the price, both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”

On Monday Anastasiades will meet again with the party leaders, and on Tuesday UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide will be in Cyprus. He will meet both leaders separately in an effort to break the deadlock.

Anastasaides has come under fire domestically for saying hydrocarbons could be discussed along with other issues during the final stages of the Cyprus negotiations. Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Friday in a morning interview on CyBC radio that this commitment, and Turkey’s response in issuing a new NAVTEX, proved that Ankara was not acting to protect Turkish Cypriot interests but its own strategic plans when it came to energy issues in the region. Turkey demanded not only that hydrocarbons be put on the negotiating table but also that Cyprus ceased drilling, which it has not done.

Christodoulides said drilling was continuing and that soon there would be developments “involving partnerships with neighbouring countries”.

Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said on Friday that the ENI/KOGAS consortium was continuing drilling within the set time frame in the ‘Amathousa’ area in Block 9, and that work was not affected.

“The drilling actually started on January 1 and is proceeding normally. Drilling is expected to last 80 to 90 days. Right now we are at a very good juncture as far as our planning is concerned,” he said.

Lakkotrypis said a Turkish warship was observing from a distance of five miles, as was the case in a previous drilling in the ‘Onasagoras’ block.

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