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Kasoulides likens UN to Pontius Pilate, disappointed in Britain over EEZ responses

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on Wednesday likened the UN to Pontius Pilate, and hinted at possible fallout when it comes to relations with Britain over their tepid responses to Turkey’s blockade within the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Using unusually strong wording in an interview with CNA, the outgoing foreign minister said Nicosia would now await the reaction from the informal European Council, meeting on Friday before it decides on its next steps with regard to the renewal of a Navtex by Turkey reserving part of Cyprus’ EEZ until March 10, effectively halting planned drilling by Italian energy giant ENI in Block 3. President Nicos Anastasiades is expected to raise the issue in Brussels.

“Our next steps will depend on the reaction of the Council because as you understand we cannot remain inactive. We reserve the right to speak out after the Council meeting,” he said.

Kasoulides said Ankara’s moves were taking place at a time when efforts to resume the stalled peace talks should have been underway.

He expressed great disappointment with the stance adopted by the UN considering the whole issue concerned the provisions of the international law of the sea.

He was also critical of a reply British Minister for Europe had given to the House of Commons on the issue, describing that response as “totally unacceptable.”

“We opted for quiet diplomacy, rather than going public about our moves,” Kasoulides said. However, he expressed grave disappointment with the way the UN has approached the problem.

“The stance of the UN spokesman, speaking on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, is like the stance adopted by Pontius Pilate. This issue concerns the UN Law of the Sea Convention,” he added.

It was also disappointing to see the UN Secretary-General maintaining an equal distance as he does during Cyprus talks, Kasoulides said when in essence he is the head of the UN, under whose auspices the Law of the Sea is administered.

Kasoulides also described as “totally unacceptable” the reply British Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan gave to MPs at the House of Commons, merely saying London was “assessing the situation.”#

“The UK happens to have a special relationship with Cyprus, for many reasons, apart from the fact that, as a guarantor power, it participated in the Conference on Cyprus. If it decided that it will ‘assess’ the situation, this is very regrettable,” Kasoulides said.

He expressed the certainty that this would have a fallout effect on bilateral relations. Relations with the UK had improved over the past five years, he said, including on security and in cooperation with the British bases, plus on the issues associated with Brexit.

“I will not be here to witness any evaluation we will carry out in relation to the UK but I would like to express my deep regret on this matter,” he said.
This, he added, was not the first time Sir Alan had disappointed Cyprus. He referred to the British minister’s stance during July’s failed Conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana but did not elaborate.

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