Cypriot President and Turkish Cypriot leader held first talks since Feb, as Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons off Cypriot coast continued to fuel tension between countries. Cypriot President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı met informally 9 Aug; in joint statement, leaders said they were ready to hold tripartite meeting with UN Sec-Gen Guterres in Sept to plan resumption of talks. Cypriot govt 16 Aug said it was not willing to engage with Ankara’s “rhetoric of tension”. Turkish energy minister Fatih Dönmez, Turkish Cypriot “PM” Tatar and “Minister of Economy and Energy” Hasan Taçoy 6 Aug visited Turkey’s Yavuz drilling vessel in Bay of Famagusta off Cyprus’s eastern shore to highlight their efforts to protect “rights and interest of Turkey and [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus]”. Dönmez same day said Yavuz and Fatih vessels were continuing to drill in Finike-1 and Karpaz-1 wells, adding that Turkey would deploy third seismic exploration vessel Oruç Reis to eastern Mediterranean by end of Aug. Oruç Reis departed from Istanbul 28 Aug en route to Mersin Taşucu Port on Turkey’s southern shore adjacent to Cyprus. U.S. State Department 20 Aug said Yavuz’s activities were “unlawful” and called on Turkey to remove it from Cypriot Economic Exclusive Zone. Anastasides 9 Aug rejected Turkish claim of rights over resources in East Med and any joint committee on natural resources.
To avoid another failed effort at federal reunification in the new round of Cyprus negotiations, all sides should break old taboos and discuss all possible options, including independence for Turkish Cypriots within the European Union.
Though newly discovered gas reserves off Cyprus are currently driving the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities further apart, they could offer both newfound wealth if, together with Turkey, they would start a new dialogue.
To capitalise on twelve years of normalisation, and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.
With stalemate looming in the UN-sponsored Cyprus reunification negotiations, parties to the dispute need to take dramatic, unilateral steps to break the decades-long distrust that is suffocating them.
Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean will remain hostage to full settlement of the Cyprus dispute, but the property issue – one of its most intractable knots – can be solved now if Greek and Turkish Cypriots compromise on new proposals currently before them.
Three decades of efforts to reunify Cyprus are about to end, leaving a stark choice ahead between a hostile, de facto partition of the island and a collaborative federation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities living in two constituent states.
Originally published in Transatlantic Academy
Originally published in The Majalla
Originally published in IP Journal