Month saw spat over gas explorations as Greek Cypriot energy minister 8 Feb announced Italian and French companies had discovered “extensive” pure gas reserves off Cyprus; Cypriot authorities accused Turkish navy 9 Feb and 23 Feb of blocking drilling ships. Ankara 11 Feb said it will not abandon Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ rights over hydrocarbon reserves off Cyprus to unilateral Greek Cypriot actions. European Council President Donald Tusk 12 Feb called on Ankara to avoid threats, refrain from damaging relations. Greek Cypriot leader Anastasiades 21 Feb urged Turkey to lift blockade on offshore gas explorations activities and called for return to the negotiation table; 28 Feb said resumption of peace talks “impossible” at present due to Turkey’s and Turkish Cypriot side’s “violations of international law and unacceptable demands”. Following 7 Jan snap parliamentary elections, Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı 2 Feb approved coalition formed by Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which came second, and three other parties. Incumbent Anastasiades won 4 Feb presidential elections in Republic of Cyprus for second five-year term after close run-off, winning 56% of vote in second round. UN Security Council 30 Jan renewed mandate of UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for six months.
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and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.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