Turkey, US agree Cyprus deal possible this year
AA photoTurkey and the United States agreed March 28 that a political settlement may be possible this year in Cyprus, the Mediterranean island that has been divided for four decades.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, and both diplomats were upbeat about chances for a deal.
“We have also some good news from the eastern part of the Mediterranean, I mean Cyprus,” Çavuşoğlu was quoted as saying by AFP to a group of reporters ahead of their meeting.
“We are hoping to reach a settlement in Cyprus in 2016. Turkey’s side is ready,” he said, confirming for the first time that a deal is possible this year.
Çavuşoğlu said talks on the issue had slowed during preparations for May’s legislative elections in Greek Cyprus.
“But after the elections we are hoping to reach a settlement and the United States is giving its full support to this process as well as Turkey,” he said.
Kerry said he “couldn’t agree more.”
“We are very deeply committed to and involved in the talks on Cyprus,” he said, adding that both he and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had recently visited the island.
“We have met with the folks on both sides as well as individual countries and we are going keep pushing very, very hard towards a resolution of the Cyprus crisis.”
In January, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı said a deal was possible in 2016.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops intervened on the island’s northern side in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Long-stalled U.N.-brokered peace talks were re-launched last May after Akıncı was elected as president of the Turkish Cypriot administration.
EP head Schulz visits Cyprus
European Parliament head Martin Schulz is scheduled to visit the island on May 29 and hold separate talks with Akıncı and Anastasiades.
Akıncı and Anastasiades met March 28 in Nicosia under the guidance of U.N. Special Envoy for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide to negotiate on the issues to continue with the peace talks.
Speaking after the meeting, Akıncı said that the Eastern Mediterranean’s hydrocarbon resources could provide “wealth to both sides” of the island.
“We should not be turning this common wealth into an issue of tension,” said Akıncı said.
The leaders of the two communities can handle in detail the issue in the negotiation period, Akıncı said.
He said the hydrocarbon resources should be used wisely, “which could ease a solution” on the island.
“Other countries may also benefit from that. Turkey, in the future, may play a key role in transporting gas from Cyprus and Israel to Europe,” he added.
The Greek Cypriot administration last week announced a tender for new hydrocarbon exploration offshore the island.
Turkey balked, saying it would not allow foreign companies to conduct hydrocarbon exploration.
“The Greek Cypriot administration’s decision to open a tender not only disregards the Turkish Cypriot side’s equal rights and interests over the island’s natural resources but also violates our country’s continental shelf rights in the region,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Anastasiades ‘did not respond to Akıncı’
Anastasiades, in return, said he did not respond to Akıncı’s call on the hydrocarbon issue.
“Because this issue [is] about the Republic of Cyprus and its sovereignty rights,” said Anastasiades after the meeting, according to web portal haberler.com.
Earlier this year at the Davos Economic Summit, Akıncı and Anastasiades stated that both communities should cooperate on energy matters.
The two Cypriot leaders will meet again on April 18 and April 25 under the U.N.-brokered peace talks.
The ultimate goal on the island is a unified, federal Cyprus but any deal would involve both sides making compromises on territorial and property rights.
And both of the administrations would need to ratify the treaty in referendums.
A referendum in 2004 saw a majority of Turkish Cypriots back reunification while more than three quarters of Greek Cypriots voted against it.