By Jean Christou
THE GOVERNMENT would not be opposed to the initial resumption of talks taking place in Geneva, a spokesman said on Monday commenting on reports that UN Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide had sounded out the two leaders on the possibility during his visit to the island last week.
But deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said there was nothing concrete relating to the reports.
“It’s just journalists’ information,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
Daily Phileleftheros said on Monday Geneva-based Eide believed that keeping the process out of the media spotlight in Cyprus during the delicate stage of resuming stalled negotiations would be the optimal solution. UN officials could not be reached to confirm the reports.
The talks are slated to resume by the end of April or at the beginning of May after a ‘window of opportunity’ has opened with the expiration on April 6 of Turkey’s second navigational telex (NAVTEX) for exploration within the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This, combined with the cessation of drilling by ENI-KOGAS ‘for maintenance’ of its drilling equipment, appears to fulfil the conditions both sides set for talks to re-start.
Turkey had made the cessation of drilling a precondition and the Greek Cypriot side had insisted negotiations could not resume as long as the NAVTEX remained. Ankara benched its exploration vessel Barbaros on December 30, the final date of its first NAVTEX, and the ship has remained docked off Famagusta since, even though the April 6 NAVTEX had not been rescinded.
Eide said last week he expected during his next trip, prior to the elections in the north on April 19, to announce the resumption of talks as the ‘window of opportunity’ had opened but made it clear there had been no agreement between the sides as to their respective conditions.
Asked what would happen if the talks resume and ENI re-starts drilling prompting Turkey to issue a third NAVTEX, the deputy government spokesman said: “The Cyprus government will react the same way it did before”.
He was referring to the first NAVTEX, which ran from October 20 to December 30, and which prompted the Greek Cypriot side to withdraw from the talks last year.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Sunday Turkey would be the only one responsible for what would happen if it issued a new NAVTEX after April 6.
“This will be considered an act of bad faith,” he said, adding that Cyprus expected no new NAVTEX to be issued, and also that the Barbaros would leave Cyprus.
Kasoulides also said the negotiations would restart from the point they left off.
Asked to comment on the fact that Turkey was presenting the resumption of talks as a result of the suspension of drilling in Cyprus` EEZ, Kasoulides insisted ENI was carrying out maintenance work.
Meanwhile Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami was quoted on Monday as saying the rights of the Turkish Cypriots were not limited only to revenue from hydrocarbons, but should be included to all stages of the various processes from exploration to exploitation.