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13 Jul 2017

Cyprus negotiations collapse once again

Once again in the last 43 years, the talks on Cyprus reunification between the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish-Cypriots collapsed in Switzerland. The Mediterranean island, which hosts the last divided capital in Europe, will have to wait the next round of talks for which nobody knows when they will occur.

The president of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades and the leader of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci had agreed to discuss terms that would allow the signing of a deal that would allow the reunification of the island, under the supervision of the United Nations (UN), which act as an intermediator.

Anastasiades and Akinci were joined in Switzerland by Nikos Kotzias, the Greek foreign minister, and the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu. The Portuguese Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres also travelled to Crans Montana resort to assist the negotiations and, perhaps, press the two sides find a solution.  Although some analysts were optimistic about the negotiations, this didn’t come true in the end.

The Greek-Cypriots and the Greeks asked for the withdrawal of the 40,000-strong Turkish army contingent that is stationed on the island since 1974. The Turkish side, according to Cavusoglu, said that if the army withdraws there will be no guarantee for the safety of the Turkish-Cypriots. Turkey also wants to retain the status of guarantor power, thanks to which it took the liberty to invade Cyprus in July 1974, in order to protect the Turkish-Cypriot community when the Greek army attempted a coup against the Cypriot president of that time, Archbishop Makarios.

Tayip Erdogan, the Turkish president, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of the 22nd World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, accusing the Greek-Cypriots for the failure of negotiations. Erdogan stressed that hydrocarbon sources in the sea around Cyprus belong to both communities of the island as a matter of international law. The Turkish president threatened the oil and gas companies, such as Total and ENI, that have signed deals with the Republic of Cyprus. He said that “it’s impossible to appreciate that some energy companies are acting with and becoming part of some irresponsible measures taken by the Greek-Cypriots. I want to remind them they could lose a friend like Turkey.”

Greek-Cypriot side is ready to launch gas drilling off the coasts of Cyprus in the next few days. They accused the Turkish side that it refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of occupation troops on the island. Anastasiades and the Greek-Cypriot side said that they were ready to discuss a rotating presidency mechanism if there will be a written guarantee that Turkey won’t intervene again in Cypriot affairs and if there will be a specific timetable for the withdrawal of troops.

Returning to Nicosia, president Anastasiades reiterated that the Republic of Cyprus is ready to negotiate a solution within the parameters set by the UN Secretary General. During a press conference, Anastasiades said that Antonio Guterres had the impression that Turkish negotiators would be flexible in order to strike a deal, but this wasn’t the case. The Cypriot president noted that the search for gas deposits will continue as planned, although Turkey is opposing the Cypriot plans, disputing those rights.