Tensions over drilling activities in eastern Mediterranean increased following controversial maritime border deal between Turkey and Libya’s Govt of National Accord in Nov, condemned by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt. Turkish President Erdoğan 10 Dec announced intention to carry out joint hydrocarbon exploration activities with Libya under maritime deal, and claimed Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel required Turkish permission to carry out exploration operations in disputed maritime zone. EU 12 Dec rejected agreement and voiced full support for Cyprus and Greece. Turkish drone 16 Dec landed at Geçitkale airport in northern Cyprus after Turkish Cypriot de facto govt gave Ankara permission to use airport for hydrocarbon exploration. With National Defence Authorisation Act signed into law on 21 December, U.S. conditionally removed arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus; Turkish FM denounced move as “dangerous escalation”.
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and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.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