The past week has witnessed yet another series of Cyprus-related crises with the EU condemning Turkey for its drilling activities around the island and the Turkish NATO delegation deciding not to attend a NATO ceremony after non-NATO member Greek Cyprus was invited to an event. All these developments were followed by statements from Ankara and both sides of the divided island.
"Reunification is nothing but a dream. Even [Turkish Cypriot President] Mustafa Akıncı had to give up two years of negotiations. Many thought he would succeed, pointing to his deep relations with the Greek Cypriots, including the marriage of his daughter with a Greek," a Cypriot Turkish politician told me during a visit to the European Parliament in Brussels.
The will and courage for such reunification are being questioned by those who want the issue to be resolved. A United Nations-brokered deal was previously taken to a referendum on the island, but rejected by the Greek side.
After many years, we witnessed yet another attempt with Akıncı's presidency, but that lasted for only two years. The Turkish side says they are expected to compromise on many issues from land handover to political representation rights in a planned federal unified island.
The past several years marked natural gas exploration efforts around the island. Many oil companies showed great interest without thinking much of the political dilemma. Turkey's foes, including Israel and the current Egyptian regime, held talks with Greek Cypriots for possible gas-related cooperation.
No compromise from Turkey
The Cyprus issue is not just the main obstacle for Ankara's EU membership bid, but it also remains as a problem for regional political harmony and peace.
In the meantime, Ankara argues that any natural resources found on the island must have a share for the Turkish Cypriots, whom
no other country than Turkey recognizes. Thus, for the EU and the rest, the borders do not exist, and the Greek side has all the rights in the waters surrounding the island.
In response to last week's EU condemnation of hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement, rejecting EU criticisms. The ministry said all the actions taken by Turkey are based on international law and added: "Those who have not taken any steps towards the resolution of this issue for years do not have the right to give advice to us."
"Turkey's hydrocarbon-related activities in the Eastern Mediterranean region are based on its legitimate rights stemming from international law. As we previously stressed on many occasions, having the longest coastal line in the region, we will protect our own rights and interests within our continental shelf, as well as those of the Turkish Cypriots around Cyprus Island. To date, Turkey has not refrained from taking the necessary steps in this context and will not do so in the future," the statement said.
The statement went on to say that the Greek Cypriot administration has not abstained from irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region by disregarding the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who are the co-owners of Cyprus, on the natural resources, "refusing every proposal of cooperation and insisting on its unilateral activities in the region despite all ouar warnings."
The Turkish side says that it will be a reasonable approach that all other actors outside the region acknowledge "the fact that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus cannot be excluded from the energy equation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and they should stop providing unconditional support to the Greek Cypriot administration."
NATO ceremony and Greek Cypriots
Turkey joined the NATO alliance 67 years ago, but its representatives decided not to attend a Change of Command Ceremony in Mons, to protest an invitation sent to non-NATO member Greek Cyprus. Turkey said the invitation "was a gross blunder that cannot be explained in good faith."
"It should be clear that expecting a positive outcome from such a fait accompli would not contribute to the cooperation between NATO and the EU. We invite NATO authorities to ensure that all Allied structures act in accordance with collective decisions and with the Agreed Framework between the two organizations," the statement read.
All in all, Greek Cypriots hinder Turkey's EU negotiations, while Ankara blocks and protests them in NATO. Both sides continue drilling activities and block exploration ships around the island. The issue is not an easy one to resolve, but finalizing a peace deal would surely let the Eastern Mediterranean region start breathing again.
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