A FOURTH Turkish research vessel, the Oruc Reis is heading to the eastern Mediterranean to defend the interests of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
Not content with three ships violating the Cypriot EEZ, Turkey has decided to send a fourth to underline its power and determination to act as it wants in the sea around Cyprus, regardless of what the Cyprus Republic says or does. These are crude bullying tactics which unfortunately the Cyprus government has no response to apart from procuring mildly condemnatory declarations against Turkey’s actions from the EU.
The unpalatable truth is that there is nothing the government can do to stop Turkey. President Anastasiades stated a few months ago that there could be no resumption of the Cyprus talks while Turkey was carrying out oil explorations in the Cypriot EEZ. This condition did not stop him meeting Mustafa Akinci less than two weeks ago, and expressing the hope that Jane Holl Lute’s next visit would pave the way for a meeting of the two leaders with the UN secretary-general in September so they could agree a way forward in the peace process. There was no announcement from Turkey saying it would withdraw its ships from the Cypriot EEZ, although there may be an understanding that its explorations will be completed next month.
One of the hardline parties, Solidarity, on Monday criticised what it saw as the government’s main aim – the settlement of the Cyprus problem through talks. “Negotiations under conditions of terror, inflicted by one side on the other, can only lead to serving the aims of the terrorist,” it said. What did Solidarity propose? The president should not return to the talks and consider how he can “avert the real aim of Turkey which is the complete control of Cyprus through a settlement cut to its measures.”
These are the simplistic ideas that the hardline parties always peddle – do not negotiate with the Turkish side because it is in a more powerful position. And then what? None of them ever offer any pragmatic alternative. If there are no talks, would Turkish ships leave the Cypriot EEZ? In fact if there is a chance of Turkey leaving the Cypriot EEZ this would be as a result of a settlement, be it federation, confederation or partition, that also resolved the energy issue. Without such an agreement Turkey will carry on doing as it pleases in the Cypriot EEZ. If there is a way of protecting our EEZ without a settlement, Solidarity and its fellow travellers have a moral obligation to share it with us.