Jul 22 2019

Turkey ready to cooperate on Cyprus solution – Turkish foreign minister

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said his country is ready to collaborate on a solution to disputes in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkish drilling activities around Cyprus have led to EU sanctions.

Resolving the disagreements will require compromise on the part of Greece and Cyprus, the foreign minister told reporters on Monday.

Last week, the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus rejected a proposal by the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to cooperate in the search for hydrocarbons around the island.

Turkey says the offshore exploitation of hydrocarbons by the Greek Cypriot-led Republic of Cyprus infringes on the rights of Turkish Cypriots, who control a state only recognised by Ankara in the northern part of the island.

Cyprus says Turkish Cypriots will receive their share of the resources once the island is reunified.

“The Greek side has rejected the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s proposal. The Greek side doesn’t want to share the resources with anyone,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkish vessels have been searching for gas around the island in areas it claims lie on its own continental shelf or what it says are Turkish Cypriot. The European Union says Turkey’s drilling infringes on Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and levelled limited measures against Turkey last week.

Çavuşoğlu said the European Union should mediate in the dispute and called on Germany to “take the initiative”. In the event that further steps are taken against Turkey, Çavuşoğlu warned that Ankara would increase its presence around Cyprus.

In an op-ed published by the Korea Times on Monday, Çavuşoğlu broached the same issue, saying that constructive efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue from Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot administration had been knocked back by a Greek Cypriot side that he said favoured the status quo.

“We are face to face with a Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus that makes full use of all the advantages of EU membership and sees itself as the sole owner of the Island. The Greek Cypriot side is willing to share neither the political power nor the natural resources of the Island with the Turkish Cypriots who are the co-owners of the Island,” the foreign minister said.

The island has been divided since Turkey launched an invasion in 1974 in response to a Greek nationalist coup aiming for unification with Greece. 

Greek Cypriots voted against a U.N. plan for reunification backed by the Turkish side in a referendum in 2004. A significant factor discouraging the Greek vote was the continued presence of Turkish military forces after reunification.

Later negotiations have also stalled, with the last round of talks breaking down in 2017.

Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı is known to favour reunification, and Çavuşoğlu’s calls for compromise and international mediation could indicate a desire from Ankara to revive negotiations.

However, Turkey’s recent foreign policy has left it isolated in the eastern Mediterranean and pushed allies towards its rivals.

On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt called for closer cooperation between Greece and the United States, which he said were facing similar challenges from Turkey.

Ankara has gone through with its purchase of Russian-built S-400 missile defence systems in defiance of U.S. warnings that this could compromise NATO security.

“The United States has spoken very clearly on the question of the S400 and the F-35. We’ve spoken very clearly on the provocative nature of the drilling activities that Turkey has engaged in waters off of Cyprus,” Greek daily Kathimerini quoted Pyatt as saying.

The ambassador said both Athens and Washington aimed to keep Ankara onside despite the ongoing disputes.

“Turkey is an inevitability for you as it is for us. And as I’ve said frequently, there are no two NATO allies who are more strongly aligned on the question of Turkey than Greece and the United States because both of us believe strongly that it’s essential for us to work as hard as we can to ensure that Turkey remains anchored in the West,” he said.