Greece, Turkey Spar Over Cyprus

ATHENS – Greece – so far – is staying out of the battle between Cyprus and Turkey over energy rights off the island that led to a breakdown in unity talks there.

Anakara sparked provocation when the Turkish government said it wanted to explore for oil and gas in waters where Cyprus has already licensed international companies to drill, including from the U.S. Turkey issued a maritime directive for an area within the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Greece described Turkey’s actions as “sad and paradoxical” after it failed to cancel the directive and then called on the Greek government to “make efforts without further delay” to encourage Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to return to the negotiating table.

He broke off the talks that he had sought to try to bring the island back together as one, 40 years after an unlawful Turkish invasion. Turkey’s new President and former Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, went to Nicosia and said the only solution is for two states and for the world to recognize the occupied territories held unlawfully by a Turkish army.

“It is sad and paradoxical that Turkey has decided to provoke new tension that undermines the negotiation process for the resolution of the Cyprus issue at a time when, first, the international community’s attention is focused on the struggle against the Islamic state and confronting the many crisis hotspots in the Middle East and North Africa, and, second, the negotiations are under way in Cyprus,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Athens added that Turkey “should not judge others based on its own conduct” as Greece was not in a position to exert influence over Anastasiades’s government, as Ankara is over the Turkish Cypriots.

“It is also paradoxical for Turkey to turn, with regard to the Cyprus issue, in the direction of Greece,” said the Foreign Ministry.

“Greece does not not stand accused internationally of military invasion and illegal occupation and settlement, and respects the institutions and processes of the Republic of Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot Community, which is expressed democratically through its leadership.”

It is expected that Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will soon make a visit to Athens, possibly as early as next week. Greece had said previously it would try to broker the unity talks that have now gone sour.