Ahead of a planned meeting at the United Nations General Assembly annual opening in New York with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades – showing how unlikely reunification hopes are – said Turkey wants to take over the island politically.
He told the Associated Press in an interview that Turkish demands to give Turkish-Cypriots equal decision-making authority in a Fedeal government although they are a small minority is unacceptable and a deal-breaker for restarting talks.
“You can’t accept such provisions that would turn a state into the puppet of another state,” Anastasiades told AP although he earlier had said he was willing to let a Turkish-Cypriot be President on a rotating basis.
But he said the Turkish insistence on increasing power for Turkish-Cypriots would let them determine police although they are an enclave on the northern third they've occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion.
The last round of negotiations collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army and wanted the right to militarily intervene again when they wanted.
The dilemma was exacerbated when Turkey went two energy drillships into Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in defiance of the legitimate government, the United States and soft sanctions from the European Union to which Cyprus belongs – and Turkey wants to join.
That has spiked tensions and even fears of a military conflict and dragged in Greece, which, along with Turkey and the United Kingdom – the former Colonial ruler which still has military bases there – are guarantors of security for the divided island along with a United Nations peacekeeping contingent keeping the two sides apart.
Now Turkey said it plans to establish a consulate in the abandoned former resort of Varosha and reopen the area that's been sealed off since the invasion, and would defy a UN resolution that only the former inhabitants could return.
Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Turkish naval forces in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean in a military exercise are being closely watched, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini said earlier.
“We are monitoring the movements of the Turkish ships. We are watching everything,” said Panagiotopoulos. “We are concerned, but we are not panicking. Of course we are not scared,” he added.
Anastasiades blamed Turkey for ruining a mediation effort by UN envoy Jane Holl Lute, an American diplomat, earlier this month aimed at outlining conditions under which a new round of talks could begin.
He said he had outlined with Akinci what those would be but Turkey’s demand to make Turkish Cypriot decision-making parity a precondition to a resumption of talks set the process back.
“It’s another way of controlling the whole of the new state of affairs or the entire state, which will essentially be transformed into a protectorate,” Anastasiades told the AP.
Turkey also sent out a navigational NAVTEX reserving an area for seismic research that is outside the Greek continental shelf and within Turkey’s jurisdiction, which some analysts viewed as a sign of behind-the-scenes diplomacy and a move toward talks, the report said.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdogan are to meet for the first time on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week but a series of meetings between Erdogan and the last few Greek leaders has produced almost nothing besides photo opportunities.
Anastasiades said peace talks could not resume as long as Turkey continues to unlawfully drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. “This is where Turkey will be tested on whether it wants talks or not,” said Anastasiades. “I don’t think anyone can negotiate under threat.”