Tensions continued in Eastern Mediterranean. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 7 July accused Turkey of being “an agitator that’s seeking to dominate the entire eastern Mediterranean”. Turkey 15 July issued advisory for drilling activities until 20 Aug in maritime areas claimed by Republic of Cyprus and Greece; Greek FM same day called on EU to impose “crippling sanctions” in response to Turkish efforts to drill in Greek-claimed waters; Athens 21 July lodged diplomatic protest with Ankara. Prospect of Turkish naval escort for Turkish drilling ship Oruç Reis 22 July prompted Greece to prepare naval operations in same area and 26 July issue its own advisory for military operations; Turkish presidential office 28 July said President Erdogan requested pause in drilling operations pending talks with Greece. U.S. 8 July announced inclusion of Republic of Cyprus in its International Military Education and Training program for 2020-2021; Cypriot defence minister welcomed move while Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı 9 July said these sorts of initiatives “negatively affect the continuing efforts between the two sides of the island to achieve stability in the region”. On 20 July, 46th anniversary of Turkish military intervention in Cyprus, President Erdoğan said “a fair, permanent solution on Cyprus is only possible with the acceptance of equal status for Turkish Cypriots.” UN Security Council 28 July unanimously voted to extend UN peacekeeping force until Jan 2021.
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and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.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