By George Psyllides
THE GOVERNMENT was on Friday contemplating organising a mission to the United Nations HQ to present its positions and its disagreement with a high-level report, which President Nicos Anastasiades described as an effort to force his return to the negotiating table while Turkey continued to violate Cyprus’ sovereign rights.
At the same time the government briefed the EU about developments on the Cyprus problem and was also planning to inform neighbouring countries.
Nicosia has expressed anger at the UN Secretary-General’s report on the operations of UNFICYP, mainly over its failure to take a stance on violations of Cyprus’ EEZ by Turkey, and a reference on Turkish Cypriot isolation — a subject that has not come up for several years.
An angry Anastasiades said he would not be dragged into talks under “threat or blackmail.”
“We do not feel we are in a difficult position,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. “If there are developments and events that offend us we must say so.”
Christodoulides said it was saddening because the UNSG chose to omit important events while including others that were not at issue. “We do not think this happened by chance,” he said.
The spokesman took a shot at the UNFICYP team in Cyprus, which, as he said, prepared the first draft of the report.
In a response on Friday night, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “The UN Secretary General fully backs the work of his special envoy Espen Barth Eide and stands by his report. As in many cases – in general terms – reports of the Secretary General elicit reactions from one side or another. There is no reason for us to comment on the reactions to the SG’s report,” he said.
Christodoulides said Cyprus had protested to the UN but representations would intensify, possibly with a mission to the organisation’s HQ in New York “to present our positions and express our strong disagreement with the contents of the report,” he said.
Representations will also be made to the EU while the government planned to get in touch with neighbouring states over the matter.
On Friday, Anastasiades spoke to European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker on recent developments and he also briefed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and also US ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig.
During their conversation with Merkel, Anastasiades briefed her “on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s illegal actions within the Republic’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” an official statement said.
“Mrs Merkel reiterated Germany`s position of principle, as this is also expressed through the decision of the European Council in October 2014 which calls for the respect of Cyprus` sovereignty over its territorial waters and Cyprus` sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone.”
Anastasiades pulled out of the talks in October after Turkey dispatched a research vessel to carry out seismic surveys inside the island’s EEZ where oil companies are carrying out hydrocarbon exploration.
Earlier this month, Ankara issued a new NAVTEX (navigational telex) reserving areas in the eastern Mediterranean for exploration – parts of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone among them – from January 6 to April 6.
In an interview with private Mega television on Thursday evening, Anastasiades said he had received promises from Ban, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and US Vice President Joe Biden, the Russian foreign minister and even Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, that Turkey was ready to go ahead with talks at the start of October as agreed.
On top of that, the ambassador of a big power – he did not name – had told him that before the start of the talks, Turkey was going to lift the embargo on Cyprus-flagged vessels.
“Instead, five days later a NAVTEX was issued,” he said. “It is the first time I say it, but patience has its limits.”
Anastasiades said he would not “bow, under any circumstances, and be dragged into talks under threat or blackmail.”
A clearly displeased Anastasiades said the report was an indirect way of forcing a change in policy – i.e. to return to the negotiating table irrespective of the violations of Cyprus’ sovereign rights by Turkey, and discuss joint exploitation and joint decision-making of the island’s natural resources.
“So that Turkish Cypriots become partners in the Republic’s natural wealth and also have the right to choose plan B (partition),” the president said. “Some people took for granted that because I supported the Annan plan I would accept any solution,” he said.
Espen Barth Eide, the UNSG’s special envoy, said the hydrocarbon issue must be kept away from the negotiations because it kept blocking the process.
In an interview with Turkey’s Daily Sabah, Eide said he saw a hydrocarbons matter in another region turn into conflict.
“Based on the statistics, if hydrocarbons are found in a region, I can say it is a harbinger of bad news since it might lead to various political crises,” he said. “However, if a convenient atmosphere is enabled, hydrocarbons might bring positive developments in economy and politics.”
The Turkish Cypriot side was not pleased with the report either. Their ‘foreign ministry; issued a statement criticising the fact that no reference was made in the report to the “Turkish Cypriots being equal and natural right holders” of the island’s natural gas.