Andreas Mavroyiannis’ proposal for a deal with Turkey on natural gas before a settlement has divided opinion, but the presidential candidate hopes that it could break the current deadlock.

The proposal by the former chief negotiator marks a significant shift, as the Cyprus government’s position has been that a gas deal with Turkey could only happen after a solution to the Cyprus problem. Some parties oppose such a move even after a settlement.

His comments on CyBC television’s lunch-time news show on Wednesday were very clear and daring: a gas deal with Ankara could finally lead to progress on the Cyprus issue and create the conditions for peace in the region.

Mavroyiannis sought to address likely concerns, stipulating that such a deal would be based on providing gas to Turkey for its own internal consumption and not for re-exports.

He said there was “no danger” under such a scenario, hinting that Ankara would not be able to use the gas connectivity as a pressure lever – as it would not be able to threaten to turn off the taps to other markets.

The presidential candidate, running as an independent but backed by Akel, explained that risks would only arise if the gas quantities were substantial enough to pose a threat to the EU’s energy security, but not if it were instead used only for Turkey’s internal needs.

His unveiling of the proposal came as pressure mounted on the former chief negotiator for his role during the failed Crans Montana talks in 2017. Direct talks between the two sides have been frozen ever since, with a series of developments significantly altering the landscape.

These included the reopening of the fenced off area of Varosha while the Turkish side is insisting that talks could resume only after the regime in the north was recognised as a sovereign equal. It also refuse to discuss a federal settlement as it wants a two-state solution.

Mavroyiannis’ proposal was swiftly scrutinised by Diko, which brought up Akel’s policy, since 2020, stipulating that a gas deal with Turkey would be negotiated by a united Cyprus following a settlement. Diko also called on Akel to clarify whether it supported Mavroyiannis’ proposal.

Akel MP Aristos Damianou said on Thursday morning that the proposal was one of many which were aimed at lifting the current deadlock.

The suggestion was just one of the many confidence building measures proposed to the Turkish Cypriot community, he said.

Damianou pointed out that talks on a gas deal, prior to a solution, would require Turkey recognising the Republic of Cyprus, saying “that is a way to press Turkey.”

He said that the proposal would be fleshed out after Mavroyiannis had put it to the test of a wider discussion.

While Mavroyiannis’ proposal is a marked shift from Cyprus government policy, the idea was hinted at by US Under Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, during her visit earlier this year.

The impression given was that the Cyprus problem could wait, because the priority for the US was energy – and ensuring that Turkey, the EU and the region at large diversified their energy portfolio so as to limit energy dependence on Russia.