By Jean Christou
There was no understanding with Turkey on the withdrawal of the seismic vessel Barbaros which left Cyprus almost a week ago, paving the way for a possible resumption of talks, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a sports event in Nicosia, Anastasiades was asked to comment on reports quoting the Turkish Energy Minister as saying there had been an understanding on the withdrawal of the Barbaros and the cessation of drilling by ENI-KOGAS in the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
But Anastasiades said no such thing happened.
“If this helps to restore sovereignty through some sort of reasoning…. I might find it interesting. What I know is that not only do they not recognise us, but they do not want to meet us so how would this be possible even through a third party,” he said.
Far from ceasing its drilling programme, Cyprus is going ahead as planned, said Anastasiades. Technical difficulties were one thing but an agreement to stop drilling was another entirely.
The Barbaros left Famagusta port last Monday, a day after the ENI-KOGAS drillship Sapiem10000 left the island’s EEZ for Italy to undergo maintenance for four or five months.
The Turkish Cypriot side said it was reciprocating for the departure of the Sapiem by sending the Barbaros back to Turkey because they did not want to give the Greek Cypriot side “any excuse” not to return to the negotiating table.
“I welcome the fact that the Barbaros has left and I hope logic dictates that the continuation of the dialogue requires mutual respect, and that it needs to be removed from threats or blackmail,” said Anastasiades.
Asked if he was optimistic that the talks would resume, he said it would depend on whether respect for the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone would be restored.
Anastasiades said earlier in the week the departure of the Barbaros was not in itself enough to see the talks resumed. Turkey would have to refrain from issuing a new navigational telex (NAVTEX) for seismic exploration, and not disregard the rights of the Republic.
“What we were always demanding was the restoration of the state of affairs as it was before the suspension of the talks,” he said.
When asked about the visit on Monday of UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide, Anastasiades said they would have “exploratory contacts to determine if and when the reasons that led to the suspension of my participation in the dialogue have been lifted so that he can judge whether a climate has been created that would dictate the resumption of dialogue”.
Anastasiades pulled out of the talks last October when the first NAVTEX was issued for explorations until December 30. A second NAVTEX was issued from January 6 until April 6 but the Barbaros did not move from Famagusta port during the three months.
Eide will be on the island on from April 6-8 to meet the two leaders separately and to possibly announce a date for the resumption of talks, he said during his last visit. However during the week when asked about the visit, Anastasiades had said: “I don’t know why he is coming back. He is returning, of course, to consult whether the prospects are being created. This will be indicated by events and then we will decide,” he added.