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Cyprus peace talks and the elephant in the room

9 November 2013

As hopes of restarting the Cyprus negotiations this year fade, former TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat, is critical of the UN’s lack of activity in the process, at the same time, acknowledging the difficult position in which the UN finds itself.

Talat said:

“You see here the two sides are not equal to each other. Greek Cypriots are superior and Turkish Cypriots are inferior on many regards- in almost every walk of life – so, either there should be international involvement in a powerful manner, or some kind of threats to both sides regarding the result of the negations. These both are not present. If the negotiations collapse everything will stay as it is. This means the Greek Cypriots continue to be members of the European Union, a member of the United Nations – internationally recognized. – Turkish Cypriots [remain] under isolation.”

Talat continued that there could be a showdown over oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. Greek Cypriot drilling for natural gas has upset the Turkish Cypriots, who insist that any natural reserves discovered belong to both sides.

“You see the Greek Cypriot side says the gas issue is a matter of sovereignty. No, it’s a matter of wealth; it is not a matter of sovereignty. And if Turkish Cypriots are living on this island, they have their right to possess their share. For me this is an actual confidence building – it’s that one,” Talat emphasised.

For its part, the UN insists the hydrocarbon issue is not linked to the peace process, nor has the subject been discussed during the talks. Nevertheless, it is an issue that looms and cannot in reality be ignored. President Anastasiades has resolutely refused to address the hydrocarbons issues in the negotiations and President Eroglu has pointed out that in previous talks there was no such issue to complicate matters since they had not been discovered.

As things stand, the two sides remain unable to agree on the principles of fresh negotiations, which look about to collapse before they even begin. Each side points the finger of blame at the other.

President Anastasiades remains adamant that there will be no negotiations unless a joint statement outlining the basic principles, can be agreed, and President Eroglu, who accuses the South of changing the rules, is willing to start talks from the point that they were left off, without the elusive joint statement.

Onlookers who felt cynical about the whole process will feel vindicated and those who saw fresh hope will be disappointed.

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