Republic of Cyprus govt signed gas pipeline deal with Greece and Israel that would go past Turkey in eastern Mediterranean as Turkish hydrocarbon explorations continued. Prospects for rejuvenation of reunification talks remained bleak. Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel 2 Jan signed agreement validating construction of an eastern Mediterranean natural gas pipeline that would bypass Turkey; Turkish FM spokesperson same day criticised agreement saying it was “the latest instance of futile steps, aiming to exclude Turkey and “TRNC” [referring to the internationally unrecognised “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”] in the region”. Turkish govt 17 Jan dispatched Yavuz drillship to maritime area in Republic of Cyprus’ declared exclusive economic zone for further round of hydrocarbon explorations; EU foreign policy chief Borrell next day announced EU was preparing list of names of Turkish individuals and businesses to be sanctioned over Turkey’s continued drilling activities. Turkish govt 30 Jan vowed to continue all off-shore activities in maritime area claimed by Republic of Cyprus until rights of Turkish Cypriots are “guaranteed”. Referring to Cyprus reunification talks, UN special envoy for Cyprus 20 Jan said “there’s growing scepticism as to whether it’s still possible” as negotiations remained deadlocked.
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and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.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