In mid-2020, Turkey and Greece put their Mediterranean fleets on high alert, dramatically raising tensions in their long-running dispute over air, water, rock and now seabed gas deposits as well. Talks have been frustrating but remain the best way to contain the risk of conflict.
Republic of Cyprus elected new president who pledged reunification of island and held first informal meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader.
New Republic of Cyprus president met Turkish Cypriot leader. Former FM Nikos Christodoulides 12 Feb won Greek Cypriot run-off presidential elections against left-wing contender Andreas Mavroyiannis (51.9% to 48.1%). During inauguration speech, Christodoulides remarked “my biggest concern is the end of the Turkish occupation and the reunification of our homeland”, adding “I will do everything to break the deadlock, to restart the dialogue”. In first informal meeting following his election, Christodoulides 23 Feb met Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar in UN buffer zone in Nicosia; after encounter, Tatar said formal return to talks will require recognition of Turkish Cypriot sovereignty, while Christodoulides remarked he did not hear anything unexpected.
Tensions continued between sides prior to presidential poll. Outgoing Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 2 Feb visited Greece, thanking Greek PM Mitsotakis for “support in containing Turkish revisionism”. Turkish FM Fuat Oktay 3 Feb referred to “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” as “Turkish Cypriot Republic”, urged UN Security Council to recognise north as having “equal international status” with Republic of Cyprus; Oktay also claimed UN peacekeeping mission has “no humanitarian, diplomatic, or legal value”. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 4 Feb reiterated “sovereign equality” of “Turkish Cypriot Republic”.
Greece and Turkey have stepped back from the brink of military confrontation over gas exploration in disputed waters in the Mediterranean Sea. But trouble still looms. European leaders should welcome signs of conciliation from Athens and Ankara and nudge them toward talks.
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.
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