Cyprus’ weapons against Turkey are diplomacy and law, not guns, president says

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said that his country’s only weapons against Turkey are diplomacy and international law, and that a military confrontation would be disastrous, Cyprus Mail reported on Wednesday. 

“If we consider that we can…provide a solution through militarisation, that will be the end of Cypriot Hellenism, something I do not wish for,” Cyprus Mail quoted Anastasiades as saying in a pre-recorded interview with the public broadcaster which aired on television late on Wednesday evening.

“And this is not pessimism or defeatism, on the contrary. You need to be aware of the reality and choose the right weapons,” which are international law and diplomacy, he added.

Tensions between Cyprus and Greece on one side and Turkey on the other have intensified in recent years, exacerbated by the Syrian refugee crisis, disputes over common borders, Turkish violations of Greek airspace, and Turkey’s regional ambitions which now involve drilling for hydrocarbons off Cyprus.

Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding with Libya last year to redefine the country’s maritime borders and increase its territorial waters, which overlap with internationally-recognised waters of Cyprus and several Greek islands. Greece and Cyprus say the agreement is illegal.

Cyprus has been split between a Greek-Cypriot government in the south, recognised internationally, and a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot administration in the north recognised only by Turkey since 1974.

Ankara says the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the north of the island has a right to a share in the island’s hydrocarbon reserves.

In his interview on Wednesday, Anastasiades said a recent visit to the region by the European Union’s foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell showed the bloc was starting to take the threat from Turkey seriously. 

“The presence here of Mr Borrell is confirmation that our European partners are thinking about how they can act in order to avoid an undesirable crisis in a region which, after all, forms the border of the European Union,” he noted.