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Russia accuses Turkey of interfering in Cyprus talks (updated)

By urging Turkish Cypriots to take a hard line, Ankara is flagrantly interfering in the negotiation process, the Russian foreign ministry has said, promoting its own interests that are not related to finding a viable solution to the island’s division.

Speaking during a weekly briefing on Thursday, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ankara were not linked to finding a viable solution to the Cyprus problem.

“We’ve noticed recent publications in Turkish-Cypriot mass media, where the subject was on contacts of the delegation’s representatives from the [parliament] of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with the Turkish leadership, and with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in particular,” Zakharova was quoted as saying by Sputniknews. “According to the information in these materials, the Turkish leader is openly inciting Turkish Cypriots on a hard and uncompromising line during the continuing negotiations in Cyprus, including on the touchy issue of territorial differentiation.”

She said Ankara was “grossly interfering in the negotiations process and putting its own interests forward.”

The statement, first reported by daily Phileleftheros, was immediately welcomed by DIKO and EDEK.

DIKO spokeswoman Christiana Erotocritou said the Russian ministry statement reflected the truth, “which the government wants to ignore,” regarding Turkey’s true intentions.

DIKO expressed this position repeatedly since the start of the negotiations “while until recently, others assured about Turkey’s supposed willingness to find a solution,” she said.

The party said it expected the government, ruling DISY, and AKEL, to welcome the Russian stance and stop providing Turkey with an alibi.

DIKO chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos used Twitter to ask whether the government would welcome the Russian foreign ministry statement or “condemn it because it ruined the good climate.”

But there was no response when a couple of his followers pointed out that the Russian statement, as reported by Sputnik, had referred to the occupied areas as Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Usually, Greek Cypriot politicians are quick to condemn and chastise anyone who makes such references.

An official transcript of the statement was not immediately available. The Phileleftheros report did not include the reference.

EDEK went a step further in its statement, saying that President Nicos Anastasiades must finally realise that Russia’s involvement in the issues that concerned Cyprus would boost efforts towards a fair, viable and democratic solution.

“It is unacceptable for the government to ignore Russia’s positive stance and not seek a more active involvement in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.”

According to EDEK, the government must immediately grant military facilities to Moscow and rights to Russian companies to explore for natural gas.

It must also call an international conference for the Cyprus problem that would give Russia, China, and France, the opportunity to get involved.

Asked to comment, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides noted Russia’s traditional stance of supporting Cyprus in the UN Security Council but declined to be drawn into a discussion.

“There were publications by third parties concerning positions outlined by Mr. Erdogan. These were never made official. I think we should leave it at that.”

Quoting unnamed sources, Turkish daily Milliyet reported that Erdogan had told the north’s ‘House Speaker’ Sibel Siber to “stand upright on Cyprus, take no steps back”.

DISY leader Averof Neophytou said there were certain junctures in the region’s geopolitics, which helped the effort to achieve a viable solution.

 “It is a fact that today there is tension in relations between Turkey and Russia, Turkey and Israel, there is tension between Europe and Russia, there is the Syrian problem, the Islamic state danger,” he said. “Everyone is interested, the big players mainly, to find a pillar of stability and a diplomatic, economic, political, and energy bridge in the region. This can only be Cyprus.”

According to Milliyet, the Turkish president’s advice was that the Turkish Cypriot leadership should not deviate from the provisions of the Annan plan, which was favoured by a majority of Turkish Cypriots but broadly rejected by Greek Cypriots in separate simultaneous referenda in 2004.

But for all his insistence on the 2004 plan’s provisions, with regard to occupied Morphou, a village north of capital Nicosia, which the Annan plan ceded to the Greek Cypriot constituent state after territorial reconfiguration, Erdogan now stood against its return.

“Because the Annan plan was not accepted, [a return of Morphou] is not on the table,” Erdogan was quoted as saying, citing the fact that it is one of the most fertile areas on the island.

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