ATHENS – In unusually stern talk for a diplomat, the United Nations mediator on Cyprus, Norway’s Espen Barth Eide, said the presence of a Turkish seismic vessel off the island’s coast – protected by a warship – was hindering the renewal of broken-off talks on reunification that have never gotten off the ground since an Turkish invasion in 1974.
Eide, another in a line of diplomats who’ve been trying to get Cyprus and Turkey to find a solution for decades, had only recently joined an optimistic chorus of international voices who said they believed an answer could be found. But that was before Turkey sent in a research vessel and warship in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to look for oil and gas in waters where Cyprus had already given licenses to international companies, including from the United States, to drill.
Turkey ignored the EEZ and has refused to recognize the UN’s international Law of the Sea and demanded a share in any energy reserves that are found in Cyprus’ water. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, eager to get the island back together again, had succeeded in getting his Turkish counterpart, hardliner Dervis Eroglu, to sit down and talk.
But Anastasiades suspended the negotiations after Turkey invaded Cypriot waters, all while the UN, US, NATO and the European Union issued only feeble calls for both sides to keep talking but didn’t condemn the incursion.
Cyprus is a member of the EU and Turkey wants to join although it refuses to recognize Cyprus, won’t allow Cypriot ships or planes to enter the country and now has effectively again invaded Cyprus, this time by the sea.
But Eide did. “What’s happening now is actually quite dangerous and I encourage everyone to do their best to avoid any kind of further escalation,” he said after talks with Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has been the only Greek official to speak out strongly against Turkey.
Eide highlighted the need “to create the right conditions.” “That has to do with several factors and the presence of the Barbaros is one of those factors,” he said, referring to the Turkish vessel. Venizelos referred to “provocative actions on the part of Turkey, which openly questions the sovereign rights and even the very existence of the Republic of Cyprus.”
Meanwhile, on a visit to Nicosia, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also prodded Turkey, saying it should respect Cyprus’s right to explore for natural gas and describing actions that fuel tensions as “extremely unnecessary.”
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due in Nicosia on Nov. 6 to underline Greek support for Cyprus but has said almost nothing about the Turkish provocation. Samaras, who is friendly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is scheduled to take part Nov. 8 in a meeting in Cairo with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Said el-Sisi, who supports Cyprus.
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