Cyprus Unhappy With Tepid UN Response to Turkish Warship Blockade

FILE - In this photo taken Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, a man walks as an other man sits on a beach during a warm day as a drilling platform is seen in the background, outside from Larnaca port, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

While Cyprus wasn’t thrilled about United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ lukewarm and neutral response to Turkish warships blocking an Italian drillship from reaching waters off the island, Turkey portrayed the statement as the UN blaming Cyprus for escalating tension.

International companies, including those from the United States and France, have been given oil and gas drilling licenses by the legitimate government on Cyprus, which doesn’t include the northern third unlawfully occupied since a 1974 Turkish invasion.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Guterres “regrets that tensions over hydrocarbons exploration have escalated once again and emphasizes that all concerned parties should do their utmost to defuse tensions,” which Turkey interpreted as faulting Cyprus.

There were indications that the government of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades felt that way too, with unnamed sources telling Kathimerini’s Cyprus edition that the UN statement “encourages” Turkey’s behavior.

The UN should have stated that “any actions that fuel tension in the area should be avoided,” the same sources told the newspaper in a shot at Guterres, who was a broker at unity talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Anastasiades walked away because Turkey wanted to keep an army on the island and demanded the right to militarily intervene.

Turkish warships have obstructed a rig from the Italian company ENI from  reaching a location off Cyprus where it was scheduled to drill for gas. Italy said it would send a Frigate to the area but Anastasiades has refrained from making any tough talk after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to send fighter jets and warships off Cyprus.

Hag’s comment came in response to a question from the Turkish Anadolu Agency, it said and he added that the UN will not “take a position on the rights of member states under the treaties to which they are party or under general international law,” even though Turkey doesn’t recognize the Law of the Sea except when it wants to benefit itself.

Hag said, the news agency reported, that Guterres “stresses that a solution to the Cyprus problem constitutes the best chance of resolving this issue once and for all and unlocking collaborative and mutually beneficial solutions,” but the Secretary-General, who shuns the press and interviews, wouldn’t meet reporters or be available for questions.

After the collapse of the unity talks, he later issued a tepid report blaming nobody for anything, disappointing Anastasiades and both sides for not taking a stance.

Haq added that Guterres, a former Prime Minister of Portugal, “recalls that the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders in negotiations had previously agreed that natural resources in a unified Cyprus would lie within the competence of the future federal government,” which hasn’t happened in almost 44 years.