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Mitsotakis Sees No Imminent Resolution for Divided Cyprus Dilemma

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (John Angelillo /Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK - Dealing with Turkey stepping up provocations in the seas around Greek islands, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said they doesn't bode well for any hopes of reunifying Cyprus, where Turkey has been drilling for energy offshore.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly opening in New York, he said that, “What I am pessimistic about is the Cyprus issue. Turkey continues to violate the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus,” reported Kathimerini.

“We will continue, together with the Secretary-General of the UN, the fight for a mutual solution of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Any discussion about two states is unacceptable,” he said.

That was in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip and Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said they will not even talk about bringing together the island split by unlawful 1974 Turkish invasions, where the northern third was seized.

They have now demanded two separate states and permanent partition, and for the UN and world to recognize the isolated occupied territory where Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong standing army Erdogan said is there to stay.

The legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, prospects worsened under Erdogan's autocratic rule and refusing to recognize Cyprus while barring its ships and planes.

The EU has been reluctant to provoke Erdogan, fearful he will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc, mostly through Greece and its islands, with worries that hordes more will come from Afghanistan fleeing Talilban rule.

Turkey is holding some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there to escape war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan, seeking asylum in Greece after the EU closed its borders to them.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades used his time at the UN to reject out of hand any idea of two separate states after Tatar – whose self-declared republic isn't recognized by the UN – had an informal meeting with officials to demand it.

“The narrative … (that) all efforts to reaching a compromise have failed and we should seek solutions outside the UN framework reinforces the valid arguments that Turkey’s end game is not to solve (the island’s partition), but to turn Cyprus into its protectorate,” Anastasiades said.

Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots argue that nearly half a century of talks to reunify Cyprus as a single federal entity made up of Greek and Turkish-speaking administrations have failed, and that a two-state deal is  the only solution.

IS THERE A DIPLOMAT IN THE HOUSE?

That would see an occupying power keeping an army in an EU country but Tatar insisted two states is the only viable answer after the July, 2017 collapse of unity talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, adding to decades of frustration.

The majority Greek-Cypriots insist a federation is the only feasible option and object to Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot demands for a permanent Turkish troop presence, the right for Turkey to militarily intervene, as well as Turkish-Cypriot veto powers on all matters of state, the minority side less than 20 percent of the population.

“It is not my intention to engage in a blame game, but I cannot leave unnoticed the absurdity of the Turkish rhetoric,” said Anastasiades, whose entreaties to the UN to intervene to stop Turkish oil and gas drilling have been ignored.

Anastasiades said he remains committed to resuming peace talks that have remained deadlocked since 2017 when the last major push at a deal that brought together the foreign ministers of Cyprus’ ‘guarantors’ - Greece, Turkey and Britain – fell apart.

The problem has gotten worse with Erdogan and Tatar further reopening the abandoned resort of Varosha on the occupied side in defiance of non-binding EU resolutions at the same time they want the UN to recognize the occupied territory.

Anastasiades got a boost when France sent messages of support to Greece over Turkey's harassment of the Maltese-flagged Nautical Geo energy research vessel licensed by Greece to work off Crete, where Turkey plans to do the same.

The ship is conducting exploratory activities for a possible route of the East Med pipeline on behalf of Greece, Cyprus and Israel but a Turkish fleet, including warships, warned off the Malta vessel.

Turkey claims the same waters under a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them no other country recognizes, Greece countering with a deal with Egypt.

Sources not named told Kathimerini that the French believe that the sudden escalation of Erdogan's belligerence is tied to to playing to a nationalist audience to boost his standing as he does in times of international tension.

Turkey's economy is hurting and his reach-out to the international community has sputtered, including with US President Joe Biden – a Hellenophile who has been open to dealing with Turkey.