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Anastasiades ‘offered additional assurances’ to Akinci on hydrocarbons (Updated)

Baris Burcu

President Nicos Anastasiades has offered additional assurances to the Turkish Cypriots on safeguarding their share of the proceeds from hydrocarbons when Cyprus talks are in their final stage, it emerged on Tuesday.

The assurances were contained in his response to Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci’s proposal for a joint committee to handle the issue of hydrocarbons so as to reduce tensions due to Ankara’s drilling in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The response was sent to Akinci, the UN chief and the EU leadership.

Anastasiades response was received late Monday, the Turkish Cypriot leader’s spokesman Baris Burcu said on Tuesday.

The response was handed over through the UN, he said, adding that Akinci would raise the issue again when the leaders meet on August 9.

In the meantime, Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said later on Tuesday that UN special envoy Jane Holl Lute wished Anastasiades during a telephone conversation good luck on his meeting with Akinci and wished him a speedy recovery. They agreed to be in contact after the meeting, Prodromou said.

Burcu said Anastasiades’ arguments against Akinci’s proposal that a joint committee be set up to handle hydrocarbons, were unconvincing.

He cited the reminder from Anastasiades that the convergence between former leaders Mehmet Ali Talat and Demetris Christofias that hydrocarbon activities would be a federal competence after a comprehensive solution and would then be handled jointly, and also that the Turkish Cypriots’ rights to hydrocarbons and joint management had been accepted by the Greek Cypriots as a given post-solution.

But Burcu said the convergence itself was incompatible with Akinci’s current proposal.

“There is still no agreement on a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, nor a federal structure or a joint federal administration so there is no mechanism for centrally managing hydrocarbons and other natural resources,” he said.

Burcu also referred to Anastasiades’ reference that legislation has already been passed by parliament for the creation of the hydrocarbons’ fund that takes into account the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.

“This is not convincing,” said Burcu.

“We want it to be understood that Turkish Cypriots should participate in all phases of hydrocarbons’ operations and have a say in the procedures. If a fund is created, this is something that should be decided together,” he added.

“One-sided decisions and creating funds by excluding the Turkish Cypriot side does not give us a sense of guarantee because our rights cannot be left to the mercy of the Greek Cypriots.”

Akinci, he said, would discuss all of this at the informal meeting of the two leaders on August 9.

“We believe that it is a priority for all to eliminate the climate of tension that exists and open the door to actions that will benefit all sides in Cyprus,” Burcu said.

Later in the day, CNA, citing sources, said the Greek Cypriot side was ready to provide additional assurances as regards the proceeds Cyprus talks entered their final stage.
Anastasiades said he did not agree with bringing gas into the negotiations because the process needed to focus on a solution.  But in the final stages of negotiations, the Greek Cypriot side could give additional assurances to alleviate the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots, especially as regards any proceeds from the hydrocarbons’ fund.

The sources told CNA that if an informal conference was convened, the Greek Cypriot side would ask for the resumption of negotiations under the UN framework as a continuation of the talks where they left off in Crans-Montana in 2017.

According to the same sources, the informal conference could be held in New York in September following the UN General Assembly.

The response to Akinci came after the party leaders last week unanimously rejected the Turkish Cypriot leader’s proposal for joint decision-making on hydrocarbons, arguing that it distracted from the essence of seeking a solution to the Cyprus problem and the need for immediate resumption of substantive negotiations.

Political parties also said in a joint statement that Akinci’s proposal contained provisions that did not serve the best interests of the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot people as a whole.

On Saturday, Akel made public a letter it sent Anastasiades calling on him to declare that the involvement of the Turkish Cypriots in natural gas issues could be discussed if there was a strategic agreement that would lead to a solution.

Although Akel was a party to the joint rejection of Akinci’s proposal, it said Anastasiades should have made a counterproposal rather than outright reject the Turkish Cypriot leader’s proposal.

 

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