NICOSIA — With Turkey a major military power and keeping a 35,000-strong army on the northern third of the island it occupied in an unlawful 1974 invasion, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the only weapon his government has is international laws – being ignored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey has sent drillships into Cypriot waters to look for energy in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with the European Union – to which Cyprus belongs and Turkey has been trying to join since 2005 -issuing only soft sanctions exempting Erdogan and reluctant to confront him, fearful he would send millions of refugees and migrants who went to his country into Europe.
The last round of talks trying to reunify the island fell apart in at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in the summer of 2017 when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove their army and wanted the right of military intervention again.
Since the, Erdogan and Akinci have insisted that Turkish-Cypriots have a role in licensing foreign companies to drill in the EEZ and other policies, rejecting Anastasiades’ offer to share 30 percent of energy revenues.
That has driven tension up to near-conflict levels at times but the Cypriot President said if fighting breaks out it would be the end of Cypriot Hellenism, apparently believing the EU, the United States and United Nations wouldn’t intervene.
In a pre-recorded interview with the public broadcaster which aired July 1, he detailed the tension in the East Mediterranean region and a visit by the EU’s foreign chief Josep Borrell, who wouldn’t push for stronger sanctions.
“If we consider that we can…provide a solution through militarisation, that will be the end of Cypriot Hellenism, something I do not wish for,” Anastasiades noted.
“And this is not pessimism or defeatism, on the contrary. You need to be aware of the reality and choose the right weapons,” he added, saying that all Cyprus has is international law and hope the international community will help, which didn’t happen in 1974 when the US was said to have given Turkey to go-ahead to invade.
He said EU leaders have only provided tepid lip service support against Turkish aggression, indicating they don’t have the stomach or political will to go up against Erdogan, but said that could be changing now.
“The presence here of Mr. Borrell is but confirmation that our European partners are thinking about how they can act in order to avoid an undesirable crisis in a region which, after all, forms the border of the European Union,” he also noted.