Turkish foreign minister calls for cooperation on Cyprus

Turkey will consider all solutions to the Cyprus issue that respect the needs of Turkish Cypriots, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday, calling on regional countries to cooperate in finding a solution.

Disagreements over the rights to potentially huge gas reserves around Cyprus have brought international attention to the island. Cyprus is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, dominated by Greek Cypriots, in the south and the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey.

The Republic of Cyprus has deals in place with international energy companies and regional states to exploit hydrocarbon resources around the island. But Turkey says these deals infringe on the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey also disputes Cyprus’s right to drill in the areas demarcated in its exclusive economic zone since it says parts of it lie on Turkey’s continental shelf.

Turkish drilling in the waters around Cyprus has alarmed the European Union, which considers these activities illegal. The EU imposed a round of limited sanctions on Turkey over the issue last month.

Çavuşoğlu told diplomats at a Foreign Ministry’s ambassadors’ conference that Turkey would not allow the rights of either Turkey or Turkish Cypriots to be ignored in the eastern Mediterranean.

But he stressed Turkey’s wishes to find a solution for the unification of the island.

"Cyprus is our national cause. The equality and security of the Turkish Cypriot people are indispensable. On this basis, we do not exclude any solution,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.

The island has been divided since a Greek nationalist-backed coup in 1974 provoked a Turkish invasion. Since then, Turkey has kept a large military presence on Cyprus.

The last round of reunification talks broke down in 2017, in large part over Greek Cypriots’ refusal to allow Turkish forces to remain on the island.

But, Çavuşoğlu said, Turkey would welcome dialogue with regional actors.

"Our message to everyone interested in the (eastern Mediterranean) region is the same. If you cooperate with us, everyone wins,” he said.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades will meet the Turkish Cypriot president, Mustafa Akıncı, on Friday. The meeting is being held as a step toward the resumption of talks.

“We remain focused in the president’s pursuit for a creative meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader in a bid to create in general the necessary conditions for the resumption of negotiations,” news site In Cyprus quoted Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou as saying.