By Angelos Anastasiou
The government is adhering to its energy planning, following the discovery of substantial gas reserves in Egypt’s exclusive economic zone, and does not intend to sabotage itself by engaging in public dialogue over it, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Saturday.
Christodoulides was responding to criticism by opposition parties, which accused the government of having no plan to safeguard and promote Cyprus’ interests in the energy sector.
“We have before us a positive development in [Italian energy company] ENI’s results in Egypt’s exclusive economic zone,” he said.
“A development that elevates our region in the energy field, which is positive for Cyprus – and yet we see that the government is being criticised in light of a positive development.”
But the issue is too important to derail with public discussions, the government spokesman said.
“Cyprus’ energy planning is not only continued but enhanced,” he added.
“This is an extremely serious and important issue, and we will not comment on such an issue before specific results are available, as such comments could cause problems and difficulties in the ongoing planning.”
Christodoulides pointed out that deliberations with Egypt will continue, per the statement of the country’s energy minister.
“There has also been telephone communication between President Anastasiades and President Sisi, during which this issue was also discussed, and we hope it will be finalised soon,” he noted.
Anastasiades and the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, are scheduled to have a tete-a-tete in New York on September 28.
“As part of our planning, the President will hold important visits to countries in the region in the coming months, which will touch on our energy planning, among other issues, but as a general comment to everyone, I would like to urge patience and assure them that their criticism will be refuted by the facts,” Christodoulides said.
Meanwhile, in response to a statement by DIKO, the government spokesman denied that the issue of settlers is “almost agreed upon” in the Cyprus problem talks, as claimed by daily Simerini on Saturday.
“Right now there is discussion on who will be entitled to the nationality of the Republic of Cyprus,” he said. “There is no agreement on this point as of yet. What we are working to achieve is that there will be no change to the demographic character of the Republic of Cyprus compared with the status quo of 1960.”
He also denied that agreement has been reached on the number of settlers to remain post-solution. Pressed to say whether the Greek Cypriot side has tabled a demand for the removal of all settlers, Christodoulides argued that the very discussion on settlers proves the existence of the issue.
“But I will not make the views of our side public during the discussion,” he said.
“It would be irresponsible of us to discuss such serious matters publicly.”
He did confirm, however, that the issue of settlers is being discussed as part of the issue of property.
“But it is not discussed only in the context of the property issue,” he noted.
“There is a particular chapter under which it is being discussed – the issue of nationality.”
What is under discussion at this point is who will be entitled to the nationality of the Republic, he added, but the property issue touches on many other important aspects of the Cyprus problem, in addition to the issue of settlers.
“On Monday the discussion on criteria, definitions, and categories, will start, and the issue of which settlers will remain and what rights to property they may have will be folded in this discussion,” he said.
“But what our side considers most important in terms of the property issue, is that, following the recognition of the individual right to property, the legal owner is afforded priority over the fate of his or her property.”
Asked to comment on press reports concerning a proposal to designate Cyprus as a transport hub for Gaza, Christodoulides acknowledged the idea but said it will be discussed with the European Council’ President Donald Tusk, during his visit to Cyprus.
“Mr Tusk will arrive to Cyprus on September 10, and among the issues he will discuss with the President is the status of the Cyprus problem negotiations, the economy, and the role Cyprus can play in the region,” he said.
“The Gaza issue was an idea floated in the past, the adoption of which could demonstrate Cyprus’ role in the region. We will have to wait to see if it gets support, but what I can affirm is Cyprus’ readiness to assist when asked to, in collaboration with other countries in the region.”