Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday evening to discuss ongoing efforts to resolve the dispute on the island of Cyprus.
Talks between the island’s Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities were revived on May 15 when newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades were brought together by Eide in the island buffer-zone, during which the two leaders agreed on confidence-building measures.
Negotiations had been stalled for seven months after Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades withdrew from negotiations last October when Turkey sent its Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa seismic vessel to the island’s waters to search for hydrocarbon reserves.
The deployment of the vessel came on the same day joint Italian-South Korean energy consortium Eni-Kogas began drilling for hydrocarbon reserves in the Greek Cypriots’ declared Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Turkey, which does not recognise the Greek Cypriot administration, had warned against drilling before a deal between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots is achieved. However, the withdrawal of the Eni-Kogas drillship in April - followed by the withdrawal of the Turkish vessel - created room for talks to restart.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Ban Ki-Moon after their meeting, President Akinci expressed his hopes that the current positive atmosphere will serve to provide the younger generation of both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots with a “happier future.”
He also said he hopes a solution to the “Cyprus Problem” will be found in a matter of months.
Akinci also called on the UN chief to help in efforts to clear mines left over from the conflict between Turkey and the Greek Cypriots in 1974. The Turkish Cypriot leader further added that the upcoming meeting between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot negotiators scheduled for June 17 will not touch on the topic of land exchange.
Regarding the discovery of natural gas off the island’s southern coast, Akinci said the issue of sharing the reserves should be solved on a “win-win” basis, adding that the Cypriot gas reserves may be combined with Israeli reserves in the eastern Mediterranean and exported to Europe via Turkey.
“This option is more reasonable compared to the others,” Akinci said.
Cyprus was divided in July 1974 after Turkey exercised its right in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee to conduct a military intervention in response to a coup on the island orchestrated by Greece’s military junta, which hoped to unite the island with Greece.
Almost a decade after Turkey secured the northern third of the island and a population exchange between Turkish Cypriots in the south and Greek Cypriots in the north, failure to reach an agreement with the Greek Cypriots to restore the constitutional government led to the Turkish Cypriots declaring the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
A number of attempts have been made to restore the constitution since the 1974 war, with the latest being a referendum on a proposed unification plan in 2004 prior to the Greek Cypriot administration’s accession to the EU.
While 64.9 percent of Turkish Cypriots voted to reunite the island, which would have secured the withdrawal of Turkish troops, 75.8 percent of Greek Cypriots voted against reunification. Despite the result, the Greek Cypriot side were accepted into the EU, while the Turkish Cypriot side remained unrecognised by the international community with the exception of Turkey.