Tensions rose between Republic of Cyprus and Turkey over hydrocarbon explorations in East Mediterranean, with escalating rhetoric from Greek Cypriots, new Turkish naval manoeuvres, and 9 May breakdown of de facto Turkish Cypriot coalition govt. Following April announcement of imminent Turkish offshore drilling, Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades 6 May likened Ankara’s actions to “second invasion”. Greek Cypriot media same day reported Nicosia had sought international arrest warrant for crew of Turkish vessel preparing to drill in Republic of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); 10 May reported Nicosia had granted new concession for France’s Total and Italy’s ENI to expand hydrocarbon exploration in EEZ. Turkey 13-25 May carried out “Denizkurdu-2019” naval exercise in East Mediterranean; Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 20 May said Ankara would exercise its “sovereign right” to drill for hydrocarbon resources off coast of northern Cyprus. U.S. State Department 5 May said Turkey’s intention to drill was highly provocative; EU Council President Tusk 9 May said EU “stands united” behind Republic of Cyprus; Ankara dismissed statement. Turkey’s National Security Council 30 May reaffirmed determination to protect rights and interests of Turkey, “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and Turkish Cypriots, warned against “provocative acts” and “irresponsible statements”, and said Turkey will continue activities in line with international law and not allow faits accomplis in East Mediterranean.
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and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.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