Greece, Turkey Could Join Cyprus Unity Talks – If Restarted

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this March 8, 2017 file photo, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the UN in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

With Cyprus reunification talks dead in the water – because Turkey is drilling for energy in the island's sovereign waters – a reboot could see Greece and Turkey take part in new negotiations along with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has not ruled out a meeting with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in October under Guterres, which could break ground for Greece and Turkey – which, along with the United Kingdom are guarantors of security for the divided island – to join.

“We expect (the three-party meeting) in October, either in New York or a European city,” Anastasiades said after meeting Guterres in New York on the sidelines of the UN's annual General Assembly opening where the Cypriot leader expressed frustration that the UN chief has ignored his pleas to try to get Turkey to stop drilling.

“The possibility of a three-party meeting is in sight,” he said, adding that if it goes well, then it may be possible to have an informal five-party meeting where all sides can agree on what will be discussed during the negotiations, said Kathimerini.

Guterres was at the last round of talks, a debacle at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana that fell apart when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the northern third occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion, and demanding the right to militarily intervene again when they wanted.

Thumbing his nose at the UN, Erdogan said at the General Assembly that the Turkish army on Cyprus is there to stay, echoing his earlier words it would be there “forever,” and that no one was going to stop him from keeping troops in a European Union country.

Erdogan denounced what he described as “ill-intentioned” calls for a withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus and the scrapping of the guarantees system that was established on the island when it gained independence.

He told the UN that Turkey will protect the security, legal rights and interests of Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean, said Kathimerini, although adding that he is open to “win-win” proposals in which he won’t have to make too many concessions.

He said Anastasiades used his time to talk to the UN to once again accuse Turkey of undermining recent peace talks with, among other things, its “illegal military occupation” and drilling for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

Anastasiades has blamed Turkey by imposing unacceptable terms. “These developments make the role of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus and the fulfillment of its mandate more necessary than ever,” Anastasiades said.

One of  two Turkish drill ships looking for energy in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) offshore – with Turkey defying calls to stop the operation – has finished its preliminary work and presented data for analysis, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said.

Erdogan, continuing to defy calls to stop drilling for energy in Cypriot waters, said his country’s Navy and Air Force will guard its ships doing the work.

Erdogan has ignored calls from the legitimate government of Cyprus, the United States, Greece and soft European Union sanctions in insisting the drilling will continue unless Turkish-Cypriots take a hand in the licensing of foreign companies and have a bigger role on the divided island.

“Those who think that the wealth of the island and the region only belongs to them will face the determination of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots,” he said in a recorded message at a conference in Ankara, reported Kathimerini.

That came after Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey would protect Turkish-Cypriots in another ominous sign of a military step-up after Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Erdogan’s real intent is to find a way to take over the island and create a “puppet state.”

“We have a clear stance as regards the fair distribution of reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said. “We have today the same decisiveness that we had in 1974 when we protected the rights of our brothers,” he also said.