NICOSIA – Cyprus’ President has suspended talks on reunifying the ethnically divided island in response to Turkey’s plans to search for oil and gas in waters where the Cypriot government has already licensed companies to drill.
Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said the decision was the result of what he called Turkey’s “provocative” and “aggressive” actions that violate Cyprus’ sovereign rights and international law.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades made the decision after consulting with party leaders. Christodoulides didn’t say when peace talks might resume, adding that any decision would be made according to developments.
Turkey had said it would search for oil and gas off Cyprus’s south coast where a drilling consortium, made up of Italy’s Eni and South Korea’s Kogas, is now drilling.
The decision was a blow to Anastasiades’ trumpeted hopes of trying to reach a settlement and reunify the island that’s been divided since an unlawful 1974 invasion by Turkey, which still keeps a standing army in the northern third it occupies. Turkey is the only country in the world to recognize the government it supports.
Anastasiades had been holding preliminary talks with his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart Dervis Eroglu, who has been holding to a hard-line stance of refusing concessions although the Cypriot leader had made so many that one of the parties in his coalition walked out of the government.
The two had been due to meet on Oct. 9th to resume negotiations. The United Nations and United States both had said recently that they expected a breakthrough. ‘
The UN had appointed a new envoy, Espen Barth Eide from Norway would make some progress although no one else has for decades. He was due to be at the meeting between Anastasiades and Eroglu.
Greek-Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis was also due to to meet with his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart Kudret Ozersay on Oct. 10.
In recent comments reported in the media, Eroglu urged the Greek-Cypriot side to “set the example for the broader region by reaching a settlement and acting on the basis of realities on the island.”
He also said that despite obstacles created by “the behavior of Greek-Cypriot neighbors” the breakaway state in the occupied north of the island boasts a decent political and economic record.
Greece jumped into the fray as well, demanding that Turkey not violate the “sovereign rights” of Cyprus after an attempt by Turkish authorities to claim access to certain blocks of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras called on Turkey to respect Cyprus’ rights, which would be difficult as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Cyprus doesn’t exist. Turkey already bars Cypriot ships and plans although Turkey wants to join the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member.
Cyprus cannot bear any further violation of international law,” Koutras said, adding that “Turkey’s European course and the course of the negotiations in Cyprus hinge on Turkey’s conduct.”
Cyprus had warned tthat a new peace drive on the divided island could fail if Ankara continues to obstruct attempts by Nicosia to explore for gas off its coast. “We consider this development particularly serious,” Kasoulides told reporters in Nicosia.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)