By Angelos Anastasiou
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades is expected to inform party leaders tomorrow that if the Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros makes no further incursions into Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he stands ready to return to the negotiating table, official sources told the Sunday Mail.
The Barbaros had been illegally carrying out exploratory research in Cyprus’ EEZ since last October, prompting Anastasiades to pull out of the peace talks citing infringement of Cyprus’ sovereignty. Turkey had issued a NavTex (navigational telex) for the area until December 30, at which point the Barbaros was anchored off the coast of Famagusta.
Yesterday, state radio reported that the Barbaros would remain anchored in Famagusta awaiting instructions on whether to resume exploratory operations or return to Turkey, which will depend on the UN special envoy’s Espen Barth Eide’s efforts to bring the Greek Cypriot side back to the negotiating table.
Citing sources in Turkey, the CyBC’s radio correspondent refuted reports in Turkish Cypriot press that the Barbaros would be dispatched for further research in the Cypriot EEZ on January 5, saying no decision has been made yet on any future activity by the Barbaros, as the Turkish government had allowed Eide some time at his request to undertake efforts to resolve the crisis.
The CyBC said that the marching orders to be issued to the Barbaros would depend on the Greek Cypriot side’s actions – a reference to new drilling planned by ENI-KOGAS in the Amathusa block in the coming days – and noted that if Eide’s efforts bore fruit, the vessel would return to Turkey, otherwise a new NavTex for exploration in Cyprus’ EEZ would be issued by Ankara.
But in fact, the official sources told the Sunday Mail, it was the Cyprus government that was awaiting developments early in the week before making its next move. On the strength of information that Turkey plans to engage the Barbaros – on a pre-planned submarine drill – in a different area near the Greek island Kastelorizo off Turkey’s south-western shores from January 12, the Cyprus government is poised to announce its readiness to return to the table as soon as the tip is corroborated.
The sources based their optimism on the fact that ENI-KOGAS’ drillship had “already begun” operations undisturbed. “The government remains in constant contact with Mr Eide,” the same sources said in response to whether the UN special envoy was still working behind the scenes to resolve the crisis.
Meanwhile, the party leaders’ meeting, rescheduled for tomorrow after heavy snowfall prevented the get-together at the Presidential residence in Troodos mountains on Friday, is expected to address the new developments. In light of remarks by parties to Turkey’s rumoured new NavTex, the meeting could become a forum of heated debate on any thought of returning to the peace talks.
Yesterday the parties had many accusations but little to propose. EDEK leader and House President Yiannakis Omirou focused on blasting Eide, who told caused a stir on Friday when he was quoted as saying that “the hydrocarbons issue has been linked to the Cyprus problem […] and cannot be unlinked.”
“Mr Eide’s remarks pose the dire danger of suggesting that, in exercising Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its own EEZ, there is a difference between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, or that there is a so-called grey area,” Omirou said.
“Therefore, the government must immediately and decisively present its objections to the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council, because in addition to violating his mandate, Mr Eide’s comments create the impression internationally that there is such a difference or a grey area,” he added.
AKEL also asserted that drilling operations within Cyprus’ EEZ neither could, nor should be stopped, for reasons both of principle and practicality, and proposed bringing agreements between the previous leaders, President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriots Mehmet Ali Talat and Dervis Eroglu – relating to the administration of hydrocarbons in a post-solution federal Cyprus – back to the table.
“AKEL’s view has been clear from the beginning,” party spokesman Giorgos Loukaides said. “In addition to resolutely seeking Turkey’s indictment for its infringement on Cyprus sovereignty, we should take initiatives relating to the period following the settlement of the Cyprus problem. Such initiatives should focus on the Christofias-Talat and Eroglu-Christofias convergences.”
The Greens called on Anastasiades to “wax his ears to the sirens” urging him not to resume negotiations, insisting that last October’s decision to pull out of the peace talks in light of Turkey’s provocations was the right one, but the party had little to offer in terms of the next steps.
“It is unthinkable that the talks could resume under the circumstances imposed by Turkey,” party spokeswoman Eleni Chrysostomou said yesterday. “But we must not remain with our arms crossed. At last, serious initiatives must be undertaken, and strategic decisions taken, to change the status quo and offer hope and prospects to the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.”
Government coalition partners EVROKO interpreted Eide’s remarks as a UN-led conspiracy to incorporate the issue of hydrocarbons to the peace talks.
“We must therefore move pre-emptively, insisting on the view that hydrocarbons cannot be reduced to a bi-communal issue, nor can they become part of the negotiations, but are an asset belonging to all Cypriot citizens – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike,” the party said in a statement.
“It is imperative that at [Monday’s] meeting of party leaders the dates for the pending National Council summit relating to the Cyprus problem are set, at which a detailed review of the current situation should be carried out and decisions to strengthen our side’s strategy are made.”