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No talks until summer

Talks on reunifying Cyprus can only resume after elections in the north and the general election in Turkey, government sources said.

The sources pointed to the fact that Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu was exploiting the current impasse over control of the island’s energy resources to strengthen his chances for re-election in April. Turkey is expected to go to the polls sometime between April and June.

In the build-up to the Ankara election, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t want to be seen as making compromises on Cyprus. Erdogan is expected to seek cross party-support in the new parliament to change the constitution and transfer the main executive powers from the Prime Minister’s office to the presidency.

The government in Nicosia says Erdogan’s regional sabre-rattling is the real motivation behind Turkey’s renewal of the naval warning (NAVTEX) for seismic research in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A communications hiccup seems to be behind Turkey’s renewal of the NAVTEX despite intense diplomatic activity to restart the talks.

The NAVTEX renewal was a slap in the face after President Anastasiades’ compromise gesture on January 5, when he announced that hydrocarbon issues would be discussed at the end of the reunification process, provided that the Turkish side had by then presented territorial maps. Negotiating maps and figures has always been a sticking-point in the peace process.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide acknowledged the deadlock after his get-together with Anastasiades earlier this week.

“Right now, there are no prospects for an immediate meeting and I think that will be true for quite a while,” Eide told reporters after the meeting, describing the President’s contribution as constructive, positive and “something to build further on”.

The same government source said that the Greek Cypriot side sees the US and the UN as having little influence over Erdogan, as Turkey renewed the NAVTEX despite their insistence that Anastasiades’ olive branch would prevent the move.

Eide will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the side-lines of the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.

On January 26, Eide is scheduled to brief the UN Security Council on the current state of the Cyprus talks. Anastasiades expects Eide to re-emphasise the Greek Cypriot compromise move, which the source said was neither followed up nor recognised by the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey.

On the contrary, Turkey renewed NAVTEX and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sent out a counter-proposal of setting up a fund for the Turkish Cypriot side, which had already been suggested by the Greek Cypriot side.

Sources close to the president say he is satisfied with Eide’s public comments in Nicosia this week. Eide also called on the Turkish Cypriot side to “recognise [the President’s positive contribution],” adding that “these will be issues that I will bring to the Security Council’s attention when I meet them.”

The government in Nicosia still has its concerns about Eide’s report to the Security Council on the Cyprus problem, where the issue of the “isolation of Turkish Cypriots” is again expected to come to the forefront.

Nicosia has been trying since last Monday to change the wording — so far unsuccessfully. Also problematic for the Greek Cypriot side is a clause in the UNSG report that refers to the hydrocarbon issue without mentioning or condemning Turkey’s seismic research in Cyprus’ EEZ.

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