Cyprus is committed to reunification talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots but not at gunpoint, its president said on Thursday (24 September) on a dispute which has deepened Greece-Turkey tensions and stymied European Union policy-making on Belarus.
A simmering decades-old conflict which split the east Mediterranean island’s Greek and Turkish Cypriots has come full circle with the issue featuring prominently in disputes between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and now holding up EU plans to impose sanctions on Belarus.
EU member Cyprus – backed by Greece – is at odds with Turkey over maritime energy resources. It is blocking EU sanctions on Minsk until the bloc takes a tougher stance towards Ankara.
“For the (Cyprus peace) talks to resume with realistic prospects for success, it is imperative to create an environment which will be conducive for constructive and good faith negotiations… not under conditions of intimidation or threats,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in an address to the UN General Assembly.
Turkey has dispatched survey vessels close to Cyprus in areas the Greek Cypriot government has licenced to multinationals to explore for oil and gas.
The northern part of Cyprus was occupied after a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece. The EU admitted the island into the bloc in 2004, represented internationally by its Greek Cypriot government which effectively controls only its south. Its north is a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state. Under EU law, the whole of Cyprus is EU territory.
The latest attempt at reunification between the two Cypriot sides collapsed in disarray in mid-2017. Each Cypriot side blames the other for the collapse.
Anastasiades, who heads Cyprus’s internationally-recognised government, repeated that his administration was willing to place any revenues from gas exploration into an escrow account for the Turkish Cypriot community.