Putting up another critical obstacle to resuming collapsed reunification talks, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said his country will never agree to giving up its right as one of the guarantors on Cyprus, where it keeps a 35,000-strong army on the northern third that’s been occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion.
Greece and the former Colonial ruler, the United Kingdom – which still has military bases there – are the other security guarantors, along with a multi-national United Nations peacekeeping force along the so-called Green Line which divides the country.
Turkey, he said, won’t go along with calls from Greece and the legitimate Cypriot government – a member of the European Union that his country has been trying to join since 2005, while barring Cypriot ships and planes – to end the system of guarantees put in place when the island gained independence from Britain in 1960.
In translated comments published in the Greek media, Akar reportedly said that the effort to get rid of Turkish guarantees was “futile.” The last round of negotiations to bring the island together again fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove their army and wanted the right to militarily intervene again when they wanted.
A new catalyst has emerged in the hunt for oil and gas off the island where Cyprus has licensed foreign companies to drill in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey refuses to recognize, sending in two research ships, guarded by a warship nearby.
Akar reportedly warned that Turkey and its armed forces are ready to do “what is necessary” to protect the rights of Turkish-Cypriots, as fears persist there could a conflict, accidental or otherwise, driven by the potentially lucrative energy revenues.
“The Turkish Armed Forces like 45 years ago when they carried out the ‘peace operation’ (1974 invasion) are close to the Turkish-Cypriots and are determined to defend their rights and interests,” he said, giving no indication Turkey wants to compromise or even negotiate.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has offered to share energy revenues but Erdogan and Akinci said that’s not enough and they want Turkish-Cypriots to share in the licensing of the foreign companies and have a bigger say in what goes on there.