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Cyprus ‘not going to play Turkey’s game’

The Turkish research vessel Barbaros

The government said on Friday it would not play Ankara’s game as the Turkish seismic survey vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa was reportedly already off the Karpas peninsula on Friday evening.

Ankara on Wednesday issued a notice to mariners, or Navtex, reserving an area inside the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), off Famagusta, to carry out seismic surveys between Friday, April 30, and June 30. The issue was raised at the leaders’ meeting on Thursday night.

On Friday, Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told CyBC said Turkey’s actions were twofold; to create political grey areas about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to damage the island’s economy – particularly the energy and tourism sectors – through creating such impressions.

“It is a tactic that Turkey has followed in the past and it some cases it brought results,” the spokesman said.

He said the government did not plan to enter a public debate on the issue. “We will take action, but on a communications’ level we are not going to respond daily to Turkey.”

“We have absolute confidence in our actions. Nobody questions the actions of the Republic and within this framework will continue our energy plans and will do what must be done, so that the sovereign rights of the Cyprus Republic are protected.”

Christodoulides spoke of taking action in the EU and the UN, and with partners there. Some of the specific actions would be announced after they were taken, he added but not publicly beforehand.

Also, he said, the Greek Cypriot side did not want it to affect the talks and he urged the media and all those involved in the public debate to tone it down.

“It is expected that Turkey will continue what it’s doing and everyone understands what Ankara is trying to achieve by these actions,” said Christodoulides.

“For this reason, we and the political parties and the media, must be particularly careful with the discussion on this issue without this meaning that the government will not take the appropriate action. We have taken and will take all necessary steps, but will not play out Turkey’s game in the public arena.”

The spokesman also said there was no reason to panic or be concerned because the government was on solid ground when it came to international law and its rights to exploit the island’s hydrocarbons reserves.

Asked about Monday’s upcoming National Council meeting, Christodoulides said they were likely to discuss the resumption of talks, the referendum in Turkey and the Barbaros provocation.

“There will be a discussion that we hope will be productive and will lead to concrete results. Therefore, I appeal to everyone not to get involved in this game of Turkey’s questioning of our sovereign rights. I understand the responsibilities and duties of all those involved in the public debate, but understand – and we must all understand – that the interests of the Republic should come above all,” he added.

Commenting on the leaders’ meeting on Thursday night, the spokesman said he would not say there had been no progress. Not all issues were discussed but what they did talk about was important and had helped clarify positions, he said.

Two of the political parties did not heed the spokesman’s urging to stay quiet on the Navtex issue. Diko wondered how the president could claim a good climate at the leaders’ meeting given the latest provocation.

Edek said it seemed as if huge efforts were being made to maintain a talks process that was already on a ventilator while Turkey “daily challenges” the Republic with Navtex and the Barbaros.

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