At Rome Meeting, EU Leaders Pay Lip Service to Cyprus Unity

From left, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, Malta Premier Joseph Muscat and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa attend a press conference at the Southern Europe summit in Rome, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. A Southern European meeting is taking place at Villa Madama in Rome with leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

European Union leaders meeting at the 4th Southern Countries Summit in Rome put out a vague statement calling for the reunification of Cyprus that has been divided for more than 43 years after an unlawful Turkish invasion but offered no help nor solutions.

That came after Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades was briefed by French President Emmanuel Macron who sent to Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been stepping up provocations in the wake of the unity negotiations that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Turkey refused to remove an army from the occupied territory and said it wanted the right to militarily intervene.

Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides also said Anastasiades discussed energy issues with Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the Cyprus Mail reported. Italy’s ENI and France’s Total are drilling for natural gas in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone where Turkey wants to unlawfully hunt for energy and as Erdogan said he would demand a share of any finds by the international companies, ramping up tension.

Christodoulides said the meeting in Rome was a table-setter for the European Council Feb. 23 session that brings together the heads of state of the 28 countries in the bloc.

Following a joint news conference by the leaders of the participating countries, a declaration was issued with mention of Cyprus.

“We closely follow and reiterate our support for a viable comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, in line with the UNSC resolutions and the EU acquis, that reunifies Cyprus and its people, and which safeguards Cyprus’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, without guarantees,” it said.

“The Republic of Cyprus is and will remain a member of the European Union after the settlement, and EU membership is the best safeguard for a reunified Cyprus.” But the EU has said nothing about Turkish incursions into Cypriot waters nor pushed Erdogan to recognize Cyprus, which he won’t, and as he bars its ships and planes at the same time he wants his country to be included in the bloc.

Macron, following the lead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said there’s no chance Turkey will get in and negotiations have been going on and off – mostly off – for more than a decade with virtually no progress on important matters.

In statements following his meetings, Anastasiades said he was satisfied with the EU statement although it danced around the problem, and he said his colleagues had shown support for strengthening Europe, “something which is hindered and lessened by the continuation of a European problem, which has continued on unsolved for 44 years.”

“At the same time, we had a chance to discuss European energy security issues, and in that framework, I had the chance to inform the leaders of the developments in Cyprus’ EEZ, the discoveries in the area, which are an important development, and with the creation of the East Med, I believe can offer a sense of security to the EU,” he said.