By Angelos Anastasiou
IN THE wake of President Nicos Anastasiades’ statement conceding to discuss the issue of hydrocarbons as part of the Cyprus problem negotiations, Turkey issued a new NavTex (navigational telex) reserving areas in the eastern Mediterranean – parts of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone among them – from January 6 to April 6.
Early in October, Turkey had issued a NavTex and dispatched its seismic vessel Barbaros into Cyprus’ EEZ, ostensibly for exploration but essentially in an attempt to disrupt ongoing offshore gas drilling, prompting Anastasiades to pull out of the peace talks citing the infringement of the country’s sovereignty.
The NavTex expired and the Barbaros retreated to the occupied Famagusta port on December 30, at which point UN special envoy Espen Barth Eide tried to piece the talks back together, urging Anastasiades to issue a statement conceding to incorporating the issue of hydrocarbons in the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem, which the Cypriot President did on Monday.
In response, Turkey issued a new NavTex on Tuesday.
“Today’s violation of international law by the Turkish government represents the confirmation of President Anastasiades’ indictments of Turkey’s and the Turkish Cypriot leadership’s true intentions,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said in a statement.
“This decision complicates matters even further, at the same time making it clear even to the most sceptical who bears the responsibility for today’s stalemate, the suspension of the peace talks, and the constant threat of regional instability.”
Yesterday, Christodoulides told state radio that Legal Services are already exploring any legal measures against Turkey.
“Meanwhile, the government has already started informing foreign governments of the new Turkish provocations, and will continue to do so in the coming days,” he said.
The NavTex came at the most inopportune time for the government, one day after sustaining heavy criticism by opposition parties for allowing the issue of hydrocarbons onto the negotiations’ agenda.
“Negotiations are at a stalemate, which is extremely dangerous,” said AKEL’s leader Andros Kyprianou. “It is obvious that Turkey will attempt to disrupt our efforts to develop our natural wealth – even worse, Turkey will send out a message that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot solve the Cyprus problem themselves.”
DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos argued that instead of acting as a deterrent, the President’s concession actually invited Turkey to escalate the stand-off.
“As expected, and as DIKO had warned the President, his generous offer did little to satisfy Turkey’s greed,” said Papadopoulos. “On the contrary, this serious concession on our part included natural gas in the Cyprus problem’s agenda and further emboldened Ankara, resulting in the issuance of a new illegal NavTex mere hours later.”
EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou made the same point.
“Once more, the tragically thoughtless and catastrophic behaviour of the last 40 years continues,” Omirou said. “Not only do our concessions fail to placate Turkey, they motivate her to new challenges and demands.”
Perhaps most painfully, Anastasiades received flak from his own party’s MEP Eleni Theocharous.
In a statement, Theocharous said the concession of adding natural gas to the negotiations’ agenda was “dangerous” as it added to a series of earlier concessions with nothing to show for them.
“This new gift to Turkey has already been perceived as a weakness and Cyprus’ position in the talks has been weakened,” said Theocharous. “Under these circumstances, returning to the talks will equal our capitulation.”
Pre-announcing the issuance of Turkey’s new NavTex on Tuesday, the breakaway regime’s administration issued a statement saying it was prompted by the ‘Greek Cypriot Administration’s’ unilateral drilling activities.
“As previously declared, the Turkish Cypriot side will not remain unresponsive to the unilateral activities carried out by the GCA which disregard the inherent rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriot people,” the statement said.
“It should also be reiterated that with a view to protecting the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriot people, the Turkish Cypriot side will continue to take all necessary steps within this framework, including commencement of drilling, in cooperation with Turkey.”