NICOSIA – Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the potential discovery of natural gas offshore should give Turkey new impetus to reach a deal to reunify the island.
Cyprus has been split since a 1974 Turkish invasion and Turkey still unlawfully occupies the northern third as Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are in January to resume talks to find a way to bring it back together again.
That stalled in earlier negotiations at a Swiss resort over the question of how much property and territory stolen by Turks should be returned.
Now, just as the legitimate Cypriot government has Eni, Total and ExxonMobil for three exploration licenses, Anastasiades said Turkish should find new interest in a settlement soi it could share in any findings.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who won’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes, said he wants a share anyway and earlier had sent in a research vessel and warship to look for energy before withdrawing them when that led to a break in the unity talks.
In an interview with Kathimerini newspaper ahead of next month’s crucial talks in Geneva, the Greek Cypriot leader said that the prospect of covering a significant part of Turkey’s energy needs and of transforming his country into a regional energy hub could prompt Erdogan into making the much-needed concessions that would pave the way for a deal.
“The most important thing is for (Turkey) to become an energy hub. The normalization of ties with Israel and the need to get natural gas supplies from there, presupposes that that pipelines will run through Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Cyprus Republic may not have veto rights, but it can raise objections over the pipeline route,” said Anastasiades, adding that Ankara could also be interested in the discovery of natural gas deposits.
Anastasiades repeated that the withdrawal of Turkish troops, stationed in northern Cyprus since 1974, was key to reaching an agreement.
He and Akinci will talk in Geneva from Jan. 9-12 before the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey – guarantors of the island’s security along with the UN – decide whether Turkey can keep an army on the island as part of any deal, which Anastasiades said he will not accept.