In Uneasy Meeting, Tsipras Pushes Erdogan Over Cyprus Unity Talks

FILE - Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, stands as he listens to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, during a joint news conference at Maximos Mansion in Athens,Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

With Turkey continuing to keep warships off the coast to ward off foreign energy companies licensed to drill for oil and gas, Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras has urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to back off provocations in the Aegean.

In a meeting on the sidelines of a NATO gathering in Brussels he described as “difficult,” the Radical Left SYRIZA leader said he told Erdogan that unity talks that collapsed last year should be resurrected using guidelines from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Kathimerini.

The negotiations fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said a Turkish army on the northern third of the island unlawfully occupied since a 1974 invasion was there “forever” and as they demanded the right to militarily intervene again.

That was too much for Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who walked away from the table but has said recently since winning re-election that wants the talk to resume again, using the guidelines from Guterres, who unsuccessfully tried to broker a Swiss deal.

Erdogan won re-election in June 24 in snap polls he called that gave him near-dictatorial powers and as he’s shown no interest in picking up the reunification talks again as he refuses to recognize the legitimate government on Cyprus and bars its ships and planes even though Cyprus is a member of the European Union he wants Turkey to join.

Tsipras had a telephone conversation with Anastasiades who asked him to pass on a message to Erdogan but it wasn’t revealed.

Tsipras said he tried to convince Erdogan to cool down the growing tension over Cyprus as well as constant violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and warships, as he tried to do when the Turkish leader visited Athens in December, 2017 and said he would but didn’t and then increased them.

“Turkish violations and provocations in the Aegean continue and are dealt with on the basis of international law by the Greek side,” he said.

“I have presented Erdogan with data that highlight the increase in Turkish delinquency in the Aegean,” he said although the Turkish leader essentially ignores him.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said he hoped a visit this month by UN envoy Jane Holl Lute would bring the two sides together again although the problem has been a graveyard for diplomats who’ve failed for four decades to find an answer.

He said Anastasiades was having a number of telephone communications with heads of state and EU officials on restarting the talks, the Cyprus Mail reported.

“All these communications and contacts that will take place in the immediate future are also related to Ms Jane Hall Lute’s arrival in Cyprus and (visits) to all interested parties, an initiative to be launched in the last week of July,” he said.

“It is our wish and expectation that such data arise from Ms Lute’s contacts that will allow us to continue the negotiations from where they left off in Crans Montana.”

Anastasiades and Akinci will meet Lute on July 23 to discuss the potential of resuming the talks and she’s also expected to meet with officials from Greece and Turkey, who, along with the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom which still has a military base on the island, are guarantors of security.