Cyprus Ready to Talk Turkey Too, But Not Under Threat

Αssociated Press

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Taking a page from Greece's book, Cyprus said it's willing to negotiate with Turkey, which is drilling for oil and gas in the island's sovereign waters but not unless Turkey stops provocations.

Turkey issued a navigational advisory, a NAVTEX, saying it would expand operations in Cypriot waters as it was entangled with Greece after sending an energy research vessel off the island of Kastellorizo before withdrawing it.

“A Turkish NAVTEX to expand illegal drilling by the Yavuz vessel was extended when at the same time a series of initiatives are ongoing that seek an end to Ankara’s unlawful actions and de-escalation,” he said, after a meeting with EU Council President Charles Michel in Nicosia.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece was willing to talk about the boundaries of the Continental Shelf in the East Mediterranean and Aegean but would not be blackmailed by Turkey.

After he said Greece would beef up its military with more fighter jets and other arms, Turkey withdrew its ships but said they would return to drill at some point, keeping near-conflict tension high.

Anastasiades said Turkey was continuing its provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean, after it extended the operations of its energy drill ship in disputed Mediterranean waters off Cyprus until Oct. 12, said Kathimerini.

Michel described the situation in the East Mediterranean as “grave” and said that “the European Union stands in solidarity with Cyprus” it has issued only soft sanctions over the drilling and been unwilling to confront Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his defiance.

“I believe we must be very firm when it comes to defending the rights of all member states, including Cyprus,” said Michel, who so far hasn't shown he wants to tangle with Erdogan who threatened to unleash more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war and strife on the EU through Greece's borders and islands.

Turkey has unlawfully occupied the northern third of Cyprus since a 1974 invasion and Erdogan has shown contempt for the EU's sanctions and attempts to get him to pull his ships.

That has also undermined any attempts to restart reunification talks that fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong army on the occupied side and wanted the right of military intervention.