Cyprus: Turkey’s Gas Search Blockade Prevents Peace Talks


FILE - An undated photo of the the Saipem 12000 drilling floater. (Saipem via AP)

NICOSIA — Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said he won’t go back to the bargaining table to reunify the island as long as Turkey keeps up a blockade preventing foreign companies from reaching waters where they are licensed to hunt for oil and gas.

After taking the oath of office on Feb. 28 for a second term after easily winning re-election he said he would be willing to resume the talks that broke off in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana because he rejected Turkish demands to keep an army on the northern third it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s insistence he wanted the right to militarily intervene.

Erdogan refuses to recognize Cyprus, a member of the European Union he wants Turkey to join although talks have lagged for more than a decade, and bars its ships and planes. Turkey is a member of NATO but Cyprus isn’t.

He said demands by Turkish-Cypriots over the gas search aim to serve Turkey’s interests rather than their own and that they’re sacrificing their future to satisfy Erdogan’s ambitions although the Cypriot President said he was willing to share the revenues from any potentially lucrative energy finds with the other side.

He said only a negotiated settlement can ensure peace, but an accord must eclipse Turkey’s guardianship of Turkish-Cypriots and by extension, control of the island after warning Turkey wanted a takeover.
Turkish warships in February kept a vessel from the Italian company Eni from reaching the area where it had a license to drill and reportedly threatened to sink it, forcing the ship to veer off toward Morocco.

French and American companies as well as ExxonMobil also have licenses in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which Turkey also claims but haven’t moved ships there yet, and it could lead to a showdown if the US Navy confronts the Turkish warships unless a diplomatic solution is found.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)