Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President Derviş Eroğlu said the latest meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades on Monday took place amidst a tense atmosphere and that because of Greek Cyprus’ lack of will for reconciliation it is too early to be optimistic about a possible reunification of Cyprus.
In his remarks to a group of journalists after the three-and-a-half-hour meeting with the Greek Cypriot leader, Eroğlu said that Anastasiades raised his voice from time to time during the talks and that he responded to his Greek Cypriot counterpart in the same manner.
Greek Cyprus is in no hurry for a solution, Eroğlu stated, claiming that Anastasiades brought unacceptable demands to the table. Anastasiades reported that both Turkish and Greek Cypriots are hoping for reconciliation, but that people don’t know what problems may arise, as the two parties have not yet agreed on a joint statement.
Eroğlu refuted claims that Anastasiades being the leader of Greek Cyprus presents a chance for a solution on the divided island just because he backed the Annan Plan, a United Nations proposal to resolve the Cyprus dispute, in 2004.
He said the Greek Cypriot leader left behind a considerable part of his positive stance at the elections held in 2013.
“There is no difference between former leader [Dimitris] Christofias and Anastasiades,” Eroğlu stated, adding that Greek Cyprus wants more than what was agreed upon in the Annan Plan, which was named after former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
‘We agreed on four issues during Biden’s visit ‘
Eroğlu also commented on United States Vice President Joe Biden’s visit in late May, saying that he, Biden and Anastasiades agreed on four issues at the trilateral meeting; however, the issues weren’t made public after Greek Cyprus negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis intervened.
Eroğlu named the priorities of the KKTC during the talks as follows: political equality; as minimal a population exchange as possible; no possibility of a Greek Cyprus canton on the Turkish side; and discussing the border issue at the final stage of negotiations.
Eroğlu also spoke about allegations over Varosha (Maraş), which has been fenced off and abandoned since the Turkish military intervention on the island in 1974: “Varosha is not on the table; however, Greek Cyprus and some other circles say, ‘We can trust you only after you give us Varosha.’ But they cannot respond when I ask, ‘How are we expected to trust you?’ Before Biden’s visit, the US ambassador to Greek Cyprus [John Koenig] came to us probably 10 times over Varosha. We didn’t say no to him, but we made some demands in return. But when the US ambassador reported our demands to Greek Cyprus and got a negative response in return, he said the US admires the good will of the Turkish side.”
Natural gas reserves off the shore of Cyprus
Eroğlu named an economic crisis in Greek Cyprus as an important factor with regard to the reunification of the island, but he also recalled Greek Cyprus’ plans for natural gas off the shore of Cyprus.
“Greek Cyprus plans to liquefy the gas and sell it to the world market with the help of Israel. The construction of such a [liquefaction] plant costs $10 billion. … Turks also have rights to gas that is found. Anastasiades agrees with this,” Eroğlu said, adding that there have been problems regarding the shipment of the gas to world markets.
The eastern Mediterranean region has recently risen to importance due to natural gas reserves explored by Israel and Greek Cyprus, and it is believed that the region holds reserves sufficient to supply Europe’s energy needs for decades and thus break Russia’s monopoly on the energy sector. According to energy experts, a settlement in Cyprus will turn the eastern Mediterranean into a new and reliable source of energy for international markets.