Turkey looking to make Cyprus its puppet - Cypriot President

Turkey’s demands for reviving talks on Cyprus are undermining any possible peace deal as they would essentially turn the island into its puppet, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press. 

Turkey’s demand to grant Turkish Cypriots decision-making parity within an envisioned federal government would enable the minority community to determine policy, according to Anastasiades.

“You can’t accept such provisions that would turn a state into the puppet of another state,” Anastasiades told AP.

Numerous rounds of peace talks have made little progress since the island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognises the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and keeps some 35,000 troops there. 

Turkish drill ships, accompanied by military vessels, have in recent months begun drilling operations off the coast of Cyprus, sparking tensions with Cyprus and Greece and leading to sanctions from the European Union. Last week, Turkey said it planned to open a consulate in the long-shuttered Cypriot resort of Varosha. 

On Monday, Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos responded to the large concentration of Turkish naval forces in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean as part of a military exercise that will end next week, according to Kathimerini.

“We are monitoring the movements of the Turkish ships. We are watching everything,” said Panagiotopoulos. “We are concerned, but we are not panicking. Of course we are not scared.”

Anastasiades faulted Turkey for ruining a mediation effort by U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute earlier this month aimed at outlining parameters under which a new round of talks could begin.

He said he had sketched out with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı what those parameters would be, but Turkey’s demand to make Turkish Cypriot decision-making parity a precondition to a resumption of talks set the process back.

“It’s another way of controlling the whole of the new state of affairs or the entire state, which will essentially be transformed into a protectorate,” Anastasiades told the AP in an interview.

On Monday, Ankara sent out a navigational telex reserving an area for seismic research that is outside the Greek continental shelf and within Turkey’s jurisdiction, which some analysts viewed as a sign of behind-the-scenes diplomacy and a move toward talks. Also this week, Turkey’s drill ship the Yavuz withdrew from the waters off Cyprus. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are to meet for the first time on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week. 

Anastasiades said peace talks could not resume as long as Turkey continues to unlawfully drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

“This is where Turkey will be tested on whether it wants talks or not,” said Anastasiades. “I don’t think anyone can negotiate under threat.”