NICOSIA – As Cyprus and Greece marked the 48th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of the island nation in 1974, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the Turkish-Cypriot side wants permanent partition, not reunification.
Greek Deputy Defense Minister Nikos Hardalias attended commemorative events in Cyprus for the fallen and missing officers and soldiers during the invasion, and laid a wreath at the Makedonitissa Tomb, a military cemetery and war memorial in Nicosia, said Kathimerini.
Referring to the invasion which led to the occupation of northern Cyprus by Turkish troops, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said “the wound of the illegal occupation remains deep.”
“We always remember those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Cyprus and we demand its reunification, based on UN resolutions and the principles of international law,” she said.
Proposals put forward by Ersin Tatar, leader of Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish-Cypriots are a new, “unacceptable” bid for the ethnically divided island’s permanent partition, Anastasiades said.
In a statement he said that he considered the ideas to be “another attempt to entrench the unacceptable narrative for a settlement based on two independent states,” although decades of diplomacy have failed.
The last round of reunification talks fell apart in July, 2017 after then Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a 35,000-strong army would never leave the occupied side and as they demanded the right to invade again.
That led Anastasiades to walk away from the negotiations where United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres because the latest chief of the body to fail to broker an agreement or make any real progress.
Tatar, who said he wants the UN and world to recognize the occupied side, unaccepted by any other country apart from Turkey, has five proposals for a peace accord, including joint exploration of potential offshore natural gas deposits.
Turkey has been unlawfully drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) and ignoring soft European Union sanctions and the Turkish-Cypriot side refused Anastasiades’ offer to give 30 percent of energy revenues from exploration licensed to foreign companies.
THE BIG DRILL
Anastasiades said he would be willing to discuss any proposal as long as it sticks to an agreed UN-endorsed framework of reunifying Cyprus as a federation composed of Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot zones.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines when Turkey invaded 48 years ago following a coup by supporters of union with Greece, the land taken with the implicit support of the United States.
Anastasiades’ rejection of the proposals on the anniversary of the island’s division was the clearest indication yet of how far apart the two sides remain on finding any common ground to renew the UN-facilitated talks.
Turkish-Cypriots claim the majority of Greek-Cypriots don’t want to equally share power under a federal arrangement and are demanding – with Turkey’s full backing – that any peace deal is preceded by their recognition as a separate state.
Greek-Cypriots reject any deal that would formally partition the island, as well as Turkey’s demands for a permanent troop presence and military intervention rights. They also dismiss a Turkish-Cypriot demand for veto powers in all federal-level decisions despite being a minority
Tatar’s proposal on gas exploration calls for the creation of a “cooperation mechanism” that would involve companies with which the internationally recognized Cyprus government has signed deals to drill for hydrocarbons off the island’s southern coastline.
The Cypriot government strongly opposes involving energy companies in any negotiations with Turkish-Cypriots for fear doing so would diminish its authority and lend credence to a Turkish-Cypriot push for the north’s recognition as a separate sovereign entity.
ExxonMobil, Qatar Petroleum, Chevron and a consortium composed of Italian energy company Eni and France’s Total have obtained licenses to drill in nine of 13 offshore areas, or blocks, within the island’s economic zone, much of which is claimed by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots as their own.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said at during an invasion commemoration in northern Cyprus on July 20 that Turkey’s newest drill ship would start drilling in the Mediterranean next month.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)