Akinci Says Cyprus Unity Could Bring EU Gas Bonanza – Through Turkey

FILE - Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

A Cyprus reunification deal could lead to gas from Israel, Egypt and Cyprus shipped to the European Union through a proposed pipeline – but it should go through Turkey – the leader of the Turkish-Cypriots on the island said.

Mustafa Akinci dangled the idea as a key to finally bringing the island together again some 44 years after Turkey unlawfully seized the northern third which is still under occupation. Unity talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to remove an occupying army and wanted the right to militarily intervene again.

Turkey has a pipeline in place and the European Union has funded a feasibility study on the proposed East Med pipeline that has the backing of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Turkey has put warships off Cyprus in a bid to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas.
ExxonMobil is scheduled to begin exploratory drilling off Cyprus later this month. Turkey vehemently opposes a gas search by the Cypriot government, saying it infringes on it rights and those of Turkish Cypriots to the island’s natural resources.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had already agreed to share any potentially lucrative energy finds with the Turkish side but Akinci and Erdogan said that’s not enough and that Turkish-Cypriots should have a role in the licensing or would begin drilling themselves.

Akinci said Turkey should also be the conduit for gas finds as the cheaper, faster “logical” route to markets for east Mediterranean gas, but that a Cyprus peace deal must precede any such plans.
“Everybody could win from this,” he told a televised news conference.

Akinci said that he’s open to discussing a proposal by Anastasiades for a more decentralized federal government in a peace agreement that would grant more authority to the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot zones.

Anastasiades said last week his proposal could make a peace deal more workable by reducing the number of federal responsibilities where disagreement could lead to deadlock.

But Akinci said Turkish-Cypriots would never accept domination by the majority Greek Cypriots and are demanding “effective participation” in federal decision-making which he insisted wasn’t veto power.
U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute, an American diplomat, is expected to return Cyprus for more contacts to determine whether stalled peace talks can resume.

On Nov. 12, residents from both sides walked through a newly-opened crossing point in the southeastern village of Dherynia in what peace activists are hailing as further breaking down of barriers but a number of similar unity gestures haven’t led to a resolution.

Dherynia, and another crossing point in the country’s northwest, bring the total of crossing points to open since travel restrictions across the United Nations-controlled buffer zone were relaxed 2003 to nine.

But a number of demonstrators at the crossing point voiced their opposition to the openings which they said help to entrench ethnic division showing how deep and bitter the differences are between the two sides.

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