With renewed Cyprus unity talks already undercut by Turkish plans to explore for energy in the island’s sovereign waters, United Nations Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide told the Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview that, “These are crucial times for Cyprus itself and also all the interested countries like Turkey and Greece.”
Eide, who has been predicting imminent breakthroughs for most of the two years that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have been talking on-and-off about trying to reunify the island divided by an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion, said however that both sides now have the “best chance” for a deal despite energy disputes.
“A lot of people on both sides of the island and elsewhere are saying that this might be the last chance,” the special envoy said. “I prefer to focus on this being the best chance because I do not know the future, but I think it would be a pity not to use this opportunity now.”
Eide said two key issues remain problematic. “I am concerned about the danger of increasingly seeing the process being subdued to preparation for an electoral campaign for Presidency in the Greek Cypriot side,” he said, despite critics who said he favors Turkey and didn’t complain about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan violating Cypriot territory and refusing to recognize the government while barring its ships and planes.
The Presidential vote is slated for February next year, and although the campaign has not started, any prospective unity deal – it must face a referendum on both sides – would almost certainly be a key factor in the race.
Eide said both sides should view the energy question as an opportunity although Erdogan has already demanded a share in any find in the waters controlled by Cyprus.
“I think energy is one of the best arguments for a solution, because if Cyprus came together and found a political solution, they could jointly explore their gas research but also jointly cooperate with all neighbors,” Eide said. “Without a settlement, that is much more difficult,” he said.
He said progress has been made although the major questions haven’t been solved, such as Turkey demanding to keep an army on the island and the right to invade further if it wants, leading Eide to say there could be a “hard landing,” where the talks “simply collapse,” despite his bubbly enthusiasm.