Despite evidence to the contrary, the government insisted Thursday there was no disconnect between the president and the foreign minister in their respective remarks on whether Turkey was suffering consequences over its incursions into Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
“The actions of foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides are in full harmony with the instructions of the president,” government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios told the Cyprus News Agency, adding that the president has full trust in his foreign minister.
The statement came as main opposition Akel pointed out a discrepancy between president Nicos Anastasiades and his foreign minister, Nicos Christodoulides.
The latter had been reiterating throughout the week that Cyprus’ rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) were “politically and legally shielded” via statements of support made to Nicosia by foreign governments as well as pledges of EU sanctions on Ankara.
But commenting on the same issue, Anastasiades himself told reporters one should realistically not expect a great deal from the EU in terms of concrete measures against Turkey.
It was this apparent discrepancy in public remarks that the government spokesman was scrambling to dispel.
Akel came back on Thursday, with its leader Andros Kyprianou posing a straightforward question:
“Where is this political and legal shielding? And how has it stopped Turkey from engaging in these provocations at the expense of the Republic of Cyprus?”
Kyprianou added: “Trilateral partnerships are positive, as are statements made by officials of the United Nations, Britain and other countries.
“But the crucial question stands: do all these halt Turkish provocations?”
In a dig at the present administration, the Akel chief recalled that during the presidency of Demetris Christofias (2008-2013) “without any fanfare we went ahead with drilling and when Turkey threatened to intervene, it had to back down due to the reaction of the international community.”
Commenting on Akel’s statements, Kousios said the EEZ is shielded through the bilateral and trilateral agreements the government signed, the agreement on the EastMed pipeline and the support expressed on the issue of Turkish provocations by the EU, Russia, the United States and major European countries including the United Kingdom.
The spokesman said it would be best for everyone in the country to focus on “Turkey’s attack on the Republic’s sovereign rights and EEZ and avoid the blame game or creating issues with no substance.”
The spokesman said cooperation and national unity was imperative in order to deal with Turkey’s expansionist policy.
A day earlier, the foreign minister was complaining to media he felt he was under attack by Akel, who were targeting him personally.
Akel said in response that Christodoulides, as someone who holds public office, ought to be open to criticism.
Ruling Disy meanwhile lent its full support to the government’s handling of Turkey’s acts in waters off Cyprus.
As the issue inevitably turned partisan, daily Politis on Thursday led with a story headlined ‘Ankara is searching for gas, Nicosia is searching for a policy.’
Last weekend Turkey issued a marine advisory by which it reserved for drilling operations an area inside Cyprus’ offshore block 8.
Cypriot government has already licensed the block to ENI and Total.
The Turkish advisory stated the drillship Yavuz, supported by other vessels, would be carrying out drilling from January 18 to May 24.
The reserved area is located at the southeast corner of block 8, which the north says falls within its own waters based on a ‘continental shelf delimitation agreement’ signed with Turkey in 2011.
It is the third time that Turkey will be conducting illegal drilling activities in Cyprus’ EEZ, but the second time it is drilling in acreage already licensed by the Cyprus government. It is the first time, however, that Turkey is drilling in an area claimed not by itself, but rather by northern Cyprus.