NICOSIA - Joining France’s objection, Italy said it will not go along with demands from Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot occupied side of the divided island for two separate states, not reunification, to end a 47-year stalemate.
Turkey used two unlawful invasions in 1974 to take over the northern third of Cyprus and set up a self-declared republic no other country recognizes, wanting to change that as the legitimate government of Cyprus belongs to the European Union.
Ersin Tatar, the nationalist, hardline leader of the occupied Turkish-Cypriot side said he would follow the line of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in agreeing to talk only about two separate states which would bring permanent partition.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who took part in the last round of talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and then-Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci refused to remove troops is planning to bring the two sides together April 27-29 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who said he wouldn’t take part because Turkey was drilling for oil and gas off the island, changed course and said he was willing to take another shot, Turkey ignoring soft EU sanctions.
Italian energy company Eni and France’s Total are among foreign companies which have licenses to drill in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize and where it’s also hunting for energy.
Italian Foreign Minister Luidi Di Maio said his government disapproves of any deal to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus that doesn’t conform to an already agreed-upon federal framework spelled out in United Nations resolutions.
Di Maio said he assured his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides, after talks that Italy “very resolutely rejects” any peace proposals that fall “outside the parameters of existing agreements and United Nations decisions.”
Di Maio said he underscored his “complete solidarity” with Cyprus over “provocations and unilateral actions” that harm the island’s sovereign rights and which “cannot be tolerated.”
“It must be clear that Italy stands by the side of Cyprus and Greece against any violation of their rights,” said Di Maio.
But he said energy prospecting should promote cooperation rather than friction and said his country fully backs an EU proposal to hold a multilateral conference on the eastern Mediterranean.
The Geneva meeting is due to also include the three guarantors of security on the island: Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which still has military bases there..
Tatar insisted that a “cooperative relationship” between two states is their “new vision” that would break decades of negotiations deadlock but Anastasiades said that’s a non-starter for him, leaving up in the air what would be discussed.
Tatar also said he doesn't want the EU to be involved in any peace talks because of any apparent pro-Greek Cypriot bias although the bloc’s foreign chief Joseph Borrell Borrell called Cyprus' division “clearly an EU problem" and said that the sooner the bloc “becomes fully involved in the renewed settlement talks, the better,” that approach having failed for generations.
An overwhelming majority of Greek-Cypriots reject any deal that would legitimize the island’s partition and Turkey and Turkish-Cypriot officials rejected Anastasiades’ offer to share 30 percent of potentially lucrative energy revenues.
Di Maio said he and Christodoulides discussed bolstering energy cooperation as Eni and partner Total have secured oil and gas exploration and drilling rights in seven of 13 offshore ‘blocks’ inside Cyprus’ EEZ.
Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, disputes the Cypriot government’s claims to those waters, insisting that they infringe on Turkish Cypriot rights to the island’s potential mineral wealth.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)