Turkish-Cypriot Leader Says EU Unfairly Backs Cyprus Over Sea Rights

Αssociated Press

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar talks to the media after Erdogan inspects the newly opened beachfront of Varosha in war-divided Cyprus in the Turkish occupied area in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Nedim Enginsoy)

NICOSIA -- After rejecting any real hope of reunifying the island in favor of keeping two separate states, the newly-elected and self-declared President of the Turkish-Cypriot occupied side said the recent meeting of European Union leaders ignored their rights.

The office of Ersin Tatar released a statement said that the “EU’s unconditional support for the Greek-Cypriots and Greece by ignoring the rights of Turkish- Cypriot people and the Republic of Turkey under the cover of ‘membership solidarity’ blows up the opportunity of interdependence and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” reported Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey has been drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters after refusing to recognize parts of the legitimate government’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where foreign companies have been licensed to look for oil and gas.

Cyprus - apart from the occupied side - is a member of the EU that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, prospects fading even more as it refuses to recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ offer to share 30 percent of potentially lucrative energy revenues with the Turkish-Cypriot side, which wants a stake in the licensing of operations even as Turkey has its own ships there.

Turkey has been ignoring soft EU sanctions over the drilling which targeted only two unnamed executives of Turkey’s state-run petroleum company although Anastasiades - who said he wouldn’t negotiate again with Turkish ships in Cypriot waters, offered to do so again when Tatar was elected.

But the hardline nationalist Tatar said he will follow the course of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who doesn’t want a federal form of government on the island, but equality for a separate Turkish state.

The EU meeting resulted in the bloc backing down, not considering further sanctions for the drilling off Cyprus nor for Turkey’s plan to do the same off Greek islands, giving Erdogan a win although the bloc - which also backed away in October - said it would discuss possible penalties in March, 2021.

Tatar’s office, the paper said, stressed that this “will in no way affect our determination to continue to protect our legitimate rights and interests.”

The declaration issued following the summit reiterated the EU’s commitment to “defending its interests and those of its member states as well as to upholding regional stability,” essentially diplomatic boilerplate taking no stand.

The EU, however, condemned Turkey opening a beachfront at the abandoned resort of Varosha on the occupied side in defiance of United Nations resolutions that aren't binding.

Bloc officials also said that the EU may step up pressure on Turkey - and indirectly the Turkish-Cypriots - by adding more unnamed officials to a sanctions list that freezes their assets in the bloc, which has done nothing to stop the Turkish drilling.

“The fact that the EU does not refer or ignore the Turkish-Cypriot people in these and similar decisions is unacceptable and incompatible with the facts,” said the statement.