Turkey’s Foreign Minister Demands Equality for Turkish-Cypriots

FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, shakes hands with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci after their meeting and a press conference in Turkish area at the northern part of the divided capital of Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warns that if collapsed unity talks are resumed that Turkish-Cypriots will demand political equality and a failure in negotiations could doom any hope to bring the island together again after it was split by a 1974 Turkish invasion.

He met with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in the occupied part of the country’s capital with Turkey still holding the northern third of the island.

Cavusoglu said if the talks pick up again – unlikely for now as Turkey hasn’t changed its position that an army it keeps there won’t be removed and that it wants the right to militarily intervene – that the next round could be the last if preparations aren’t made correctly.

“If we rush into the negotiations and fail again, then we may not have another shot at it again. We cannot endure another failure and we will make this point one of our priorities,” Cavusoglu said, Kathimerini Cyprus reported.

He said topics and guidelines should be set ahead of the start of any talks, although Turkey won’t yet accept parameters set by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who failed to broker a deal during July, 2017 talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

“Greek Cypriots must stop acting like the sole owners of Cyprus. The fact that both sides on the island are politically equal will never change,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.

With Turkish warships off the coast trying to block foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas in waters where they are licensed to do so, he said if that continues then Turkish-Cypriots would start looking for energy in the same waters although they haven’t found a company willing to do that.

“We stopped ENI. In the last three years we have been telling the Italians and ENI ‘don’t come in here’ as we will not allow it if the rights of the Turkish Cypriots are not guaranteed,” Cavusoglu told Turkish daily Aksam, referring to an Italian company that couldn’t reach the waters where it had a license, verring away under the threat of being sunk with no help from the Italian Navy.

“If the Greek Cypriot side starts drilling in the fall, we will do the same,” Cavusoglu said. His caution came as a UN temporary envoy, American diplomat Jane Holl Lute met Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and then Akinci, but gave no statements.

Anastasiades and Akinci have both said publicly that they’re ready to re-engage more than a year after the most recent round of negotiations collapsed, but differences remain.

Anastasiades wants Turkey to pull its troops out of the breakaway north and to eliminate any intervention rights from an accord.

Akinci wants Turkish Cypriots to share power equally with the majority Greek-Cypriots in an envisioned federation and a time limit to negotiations.

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