There are intense efforts behind the scenes to bring President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu back to the negotiating table and revive stalled peace talks.
Though all agree there is no possibility this can happen before the April elections in the north, diplomatic sources told the Cyprus Weekly that the biggest hurdle is finding a face-saving formula that will allow Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots and the Cyprus government to all say they have overcome the current impasse on how to deal with exploring and monetising potential gas finds in the Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
After the April elections, the UN and parties still engaged in the peace process are expected to urge both sides to discuss proposals formulated at the end of last summer.
Last October, the UN Secretary General’s special adviser, Espen Barth Eide, was poised to present the sides with a framework for fast progress. He was stopped, however, by Turkey’s decision to send a seismic ship, Barbaros, to research in Cyprus’ EEZ.
In response to Ankara’s move, President Anastasiades halted all talks until the vessel left the area and the relevant naval notice (NAVTEX) had been annulled. Turkey’s January renewal of the NAVTEX did not help the situation.
Both Turkey and the Cyprus government are playing hard ball in the public arena: Ankara demands that gas be a basic aspect of peace talks and Anastasiades insists that whilst Turkish Cypriots have right to the island’s natural resources, they should exercise these rights after reunification.
Last Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Barbaros would leave Cyprus’s EEZ only if a Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot company was formed to jointly manage the nation’s natural gas resources.
He even said that Turkey could transport and sell the gas.
The current situation makes the effort to find bring the parties together a very difficult exercise. A senior diplomatic source told the Cyprus Weekly that from now until April, foreign players of Cyprus problem (including Russia) may build on Anastasiades’ proposal to discuss gas at the end of negotiating process — as soon as the Turkish side produces maps for solving the territorial aspect of the problem.
In essence, diplomats believe that the Greek Cypriot proposal to discuss gas rights with the Turkish Cypriots in exchange for discussions on the issue of territory is could be the key that will break eventually the deadlock.