Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, right, and his Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos shake hands after a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. AP Photo
Ankara and Athens are of the same mind about the importance of Cypriot negotiations’ continuing, Turkish and Greek top diplomats say, though they maintain their opposing views for a solution of the ongoing gas dispute.
Appearing at a joint press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Nov. 29, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos called for the resumption of reunification talks, which came to a halt when the Greek Cypriot administration withdrew from the table in October over tension regarding drilling off of the island.
The Greek Cyprus administration suspended talks over the divided island on Oct. 7 after Turkey sent a ship to the waters off the coast of Cyprus for oil and gas exploration.
“The negotiations continued through even the hardest times. We wish to restart the talks in this period as well,” Çavuşoğlu said during the news conference.
“We desire an understanding and solution that will protect the rights of both nations and our efforts for this will continue,” he stressed.
The minister repeated Turkey’s objection to Greek Cyprus’ hydrocarbon searches off Cyprus, which he dubbed a “violation of Turkish Cypriot people’s legitimate rights.”
The minister also criticized Greek Cyprus for suspending peace talks, questioning the government’s intentions.
“This negotiations have been kicked for a solution on the island and the framework of the solution is included in the joint declaration,” referring to a statement announced by the U.N. mission in Cyprus on Feb. 11.
The declaration that marked the inauguration of stalled talks says a settlement between the two sides “will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality.”
“Amid focus on this solution, the Greek side’s one-sided drilling activities that don’t guarantee Turkish Cypriots’ rights are not a well-intended If we want a solution, why we don’t focus on this?” he said.
“If we must do this urgently, if there are good intentions, there are many solutions. But if there is no
good intention, if there will be an approach like ‘I am an EU member, so I can use these rights,’ these are no use for a solution,” he said.
Both of the governments of Turkey and Turkish Cypriot oppose Greek Cyprus’ exploitation of offshore energy reserves before a deal is reached to solve the decades-long division of the east Mediterranean island and argues the resources belong to both governments on the island.
However, the Greek side insists Turkish Cypriots can share in the potential gas bounty and the minerals can be piped to Turkey only after a reunification accord is achieved, stressing that it could act as an incentive for peace.
Athens emphasizes Greek Cypriot sovereignty
For his part, Venizelos also pledged support for the resumption of talks, saying “It’s our duty to exert efforts to restart the negotiations,” however drew a red line at the protection of “Greek Cyprus’ sovereign rights.”
“I always believe there is opportunity to avoid tension and [to find a] solution to the problems,” he stated. “But these efforts shouldn’t hurt Greek Cyprus’ sovereignty rights.”
“Cyprus, a member of United Nations and European Union, has national sovereignty and national rights. Within the framework of maritime law, undersea resources belong to this state,” the minister asserted, reiterating Greek calls for the establishment of a resource distribution scheme after reunification talks.
The minister also claimed the gas to be excerpted by Greek Cyprus will be shared with the Turkish side as well.
“This state holds the responsibility of management of these resources in advantage to both Greek and Turkish citizens living in Cyprus. This happens in the equality and balance scope. Moreover, the distribution of natural gas is decided to also be in favor of Cyprus Turks, We should do these in a way to distribute equal rights to all citizens of Cyprus,” he said.
“Moreover, there will be a federation and constitution as a result of the political solution that will be reached,” he added, also noting the “importance of respect to Cyprus’ sovereign right to reach before and reach this point.”
Venizelos’ visit came less than a week before senior Turkish and Greek officials will meet in the third edition of the “High-Level Cooperation Council,” which will take place in Athens on Dec. 5-6.