UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide, in an interview with the Cyprus News Agency published on Wednesday, said nobody had exploited the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) because it was not sovereign territory.
“There is the legal argument that is very strong on the Republic of Cyprus side, which is that the Republic of Cyprus is a country like every country and it can declare its economic zone. After all, nobody has exploited it by the way. It is a question of how much a violation has actually happened because many countries do not see seismic exploration as a violation as long as they don`t lead to exploitation. Because the economic zone is not sovereign territory, anybody can basically do anything there but for taking out the resources. But that`s a very technical issue,” he said.
The other argument, he said, from the Turkish Cypriot side was that the hydrocarbons of Cyprus belonged to all Cypriots. “And one side of Cyprus cannot just venture into making all decisions that will have a kind of an eternal effect on everyone without consulting with the other side”.
“So, there is a legal argument and a political argument. And this actually illustrates the deep problem of the Cyprus problem. It`s essentially contested what is the Cyprus problem. Is it a hijacked state, or part of the country is occupied? And we know that we will never get a full agreement on that. But you can get to full agreement on how you reunify. So the hydrocarbon crisis is in essence an illustration of the deep disagreements that lies behind the whole understanding of what the Cyprus problem is,” he added.
Asked if a gesture on the part of Turkey, for instance, the opening of ports/airports and other measures, to Cyprus that would be conducive in helping the process move forward, Eide said “the other side in the negotiations is the Turkish Cypriot side, not Turkey”.
“Of course Turkey has an interest in this for obvious reasons but the negotiations are between the two communities on the island.”
To a question by CNA that the problem was the actual division of the island which is maintained by Turkey, Eide said: “Again, this is part of the essential contest, that`s a dimension of it, another one, if you are a Turkish Cypriot is that back in the sixties a state that was supposed to be a state for Greeks and Turks was hijacked by one side and turned into more of a Hellenic state”.
Eide said he did not want to go further into the issue, saying for a long time people had been living with “different readings” on why the Cyprus problem existed.
The special adviser said he was more concerned with how it could be resolved.
Asked why he considered the current effort to see the talks resume as possibly a last opportunity, the Norwegian diplomat said: “Of course, I am not saying that if we have some trouble in three months and a temporary suspension that that`s the end of the day. I am saying in the broad sense I think we have had a very serious crisis with the hydrocarbons, they illustrate that some of these problems, in the absence of a solution, and I sincerely think that it is important now to grasp this moment and try because if there is will, there is a way.
Eide said it was not that there was no will “but I don`t think there was sufficient will”.
“I really trust [President] Anastasiades that he actually wants this to happen. Of course, he has a difficult political environment which we can all see and I also feel that there is a very strong urge now for a lot of people on the Turkish Cypriot side to get out of a very strange situation that they are now in”.
Eide said the impatience of the international community on all sides, was becoming more and more evident. “that there is a feeling that this really cannot be allowed to go on any longer, we cannot have this unresolved, because it is fundamentally unresolved”
“It`s not like neutral. It`s an open issue that has not landed and there is in principle only two ways to land which is reunification or separation”.
Eide said he wanted to maintain the optimism that the problem could be solved and this, he said, was based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people in Cyprus and elsewhere.
Regarding the introduction of confidence building measures, Eide said “they are good but my focus is not on that. My focus in the UN is the talks themselves on the substance, on the core issues, not fringe issues, because I know that if we solve all the core issues, then everything else will follow”.
For instance, he continued, “a unified Cyprus will be recognised by Turkey, of course, and then the ensuing state will have the same access to ports in Turkey as every other state, the hydrocarbon issue is not any longer a conflict issue but a cooperation issue because both sides already agreed that it`s a federal capacity in a new state. So, a lot of these issues are issues because of the division and will actually evaporate once a solution is found. Because they are expressions of the division.”
Asked if the core issues would be first, he said the restart of the negotiations would include “core issues, property, territory, governance and power sharing”, adding that “it is very difficult”.
He explained that there would be a meeting to declare the resumption of the talks with the leaders meeting to show they were back in business, Anastasiades and whoever is elected in the Turkish Cypriot elections on April 19 “and from then on we are taking difficult issue by difficult issue and seeing how we move forward”.
To a question as to whether there was a timeframe or deadline, Eide said “2015 is the border framework we are operating inside. I don`t want to say a particular date because the date will become a point in itself but the sooner the better. And this is also what the leaders say, they want to solve this the sooner the better”.
He said Cyprus could be could be “a stable, wealthy, interesting, positive place, an example for the world of overcoming past difficulties through peaceful negotiations”
It would also attract a lot of investments as ideal location for people who want to be engaged in the Middle East but do not want to actually be based in the Middle East”.
The island would eventually, he hoped “be able to capitalise on its natural resources and so on, and have an economy that is not driven by political decisions but by rational economic choice”
“And I think that`s a great future but you can only find it by working with other Cypriots”. (CNA)