Excerpts from the interview with the General Secretary of the Central Committee of AKEL A.Kyprianou
Sunday 9th February 2020, “Politis” newspaper
On a dead-end path
Turkey is drilling in block 8 of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). TOTAL and ENI are planning drillings in April. Ankara has announced prior drilling between Libya and Kastelorizo. Bearing all this in mind, how will the procedure for the solution of the Cyprus problem resume after the vote in the Turkish community?
AK: Since the beginning of the escalation of Turkey’s provocative actions, we have been saying that the response shouldn’t be any escalation on our part too, but that we should aim at de-escalating the situation. Our priority must be the solution of the Cyprus problem. All our actions must serve this strategic goal, that is to say the solution of the Cyprus problem.
With the escalation of tension, do we, as certain forces and circles claim, succeed in exerting so much pressure on Turkey that it will be forced to come and discuss the solution of the Cyprus problem with us on the basis of what we demand? Never mind the fact that they don’t clarify what these forces and circles are actually demanding. Some talk about a unitary state, but there isn’t a remote chance whatsoever of this being achieved. I therefore consider we are on a dead-end path.
In any case however there is no prospect of a resumption of substantive negotiations, as the occupied territories are in the midst of a pre-election period.
AK: The vote for the Turkish Cypriot leadership will end and that’s where Mr. Anastasiades’ real intentions will be apparent. If Mr. Anastasiades makes serious efforts and undertakes initiatives aiming at the resumption of negotiations, we will be present. We will back the procedure and support the effort.
However, AKEL makes it clear that there is no room for any more vacillations, regressions and experimentations. Developments have already taken a very negative turn.
Initiative towards Turkey
You have stated that we cannot proceed to a new effort to solve the Cyprus problem with ongoing escalations, etc. What do you consider as constituting an escalation?
AK: By taking actions similar to Turkey’s, can we move towards a resumption of negotiations? There is no such possibility. Our political assessment – even though some may think we are naive – is that Turkey is stepping up its aggressive actions, aiming first and foremost to force us to go to the negotiating table and, secondly, to create fait accompli. We say that we should take an initiative towards Turkey and submit a comprehensive proposal on energy issues. Towards this end, we have since 2015 tabled a specific document at the National Council (Note: an advisory consultative body on the Cyprus problem composed of all the parliamentary parties) which we brought back to the table last July, when Mr. Akinci had submitted his own proposal. We believe that an attempt to resume the negotiations can begin on the basis of this proposal. We consider that when the negotiations resume, Turkey will then be obliged to end the provocations in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus.
In other words, should the President accept the resumption of the procedure of solving the Cyprus problem, regardless of whether Turkey will continue its provocative actions?
AK: The one is intertwined with the other. If it appears that negotiations start, Turkey will be forced to put a stop to its provocative actions. This is AKEL’s political assessment.
Solution – pipeline
In short, what does your proposal say?
AK: There are the Christofias-Talat Agreements. That’s to say, the natural resources constitute a federal competence, i.e. after the solution there will be co-management by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and the allocation of the revenues from the natural wealth will follow. The Hydrocarbon Fund has also been set up – though we are not completely satisfied with the way it was established – but it does represent a positive step.
From now onwards, we must turn to Turkey and tell it: Help us solve the Cyprus problem, and if the relations between us are resolved and normalized, then we can begin a discussion with you on the possibility of selling you natural gas from what we will be producing, but also discuss the possibility of constructing a pipeline that will pass through the country and end up in destinations beyond Turkey – clarifying at the same time that we will build a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal so that we will not be captive to Ankara’s control. Whether or not we will hold these discussions will be the result of the financial parameters that will be agreed upon. If we do agree, then all well and good.
Why don’t we build on Turkey’s proposal for a moratorium on drillings until the Cyprus problem is resolved?
AK: I understand that it is difficult for Mr. Anastasiades to do that as he has proceeded to forge tripartite partnerships. He is in contact with the US, and a message might be conveyed that he is abandoning sovereign rights. However, if Turkey genuinely wanted a moratorium for a resumption of the negotiations, it should have acted in the last year when there wasn’t a single drilling. Besides that, we should create a climate that can lead to the resumption of negotiations, and we believe that many issues can be resolved.
Trilateral meetings and fooling the people
You said that we mustn’t proceed to take corresponding actions as regards Turkey. Do you mean the trilateral meetings?
AK: As there is a great deal of distortion of AKEL’s positions in relation to the trilateral meetings, I want to make it clear that we are not against these meetings. And let me remind you that Demetris Christofias had started them. But a trilateral meeting must have specific content and yield results. So far there have been many trilateral meetings held, but apart from one agreement, on a political level, for the construction of EastMed, have you seen anything else achieved?
There’s all the talk about Cyprus’ relations with Israel. We are in court with Israel. Cyprus has a legal dispute with it. That is to say, Cyprus hasn’t managed to resolve energy issues that concern us bilaterally, and the government considers them to be our best allies.
Trilateral meetings must therefore be effective to be meaningful. The only trilateral meeting that has worked and is moving forward is the EuroAsia Interconnector, nothing else. And this agreement was concluded under the Ministry of Neoklis Sylikiotis (during the Christofias government). It’s worth pointing this out.
Consequently, we are not against trilateral meetings as a matter of principle. What we are against is the fooling of the people that accompanied these trilateral meetings. The headlines were declaring that we have shielded the EEZ militarily. Journalists don’t make up newspaper headlines out of nowhere. Some government official gave them specific information.
Do you mean the Foreign Minister, who you have been focusing your criticism on lately?
AK: No, we haven’t focused our criticism on him. We criticize other Ministers, when there are issues that concern them, as we have also criticized the Foreign Minister. And I really wonder why the Foreign Minister believes we mustn’t criticize him.
Let me reiterate, there were headlines that were talking about the military shielding of our EEZ at the time. There are also written statements made by the Foreign Minister and President Anastasiades himself that Turkey will not dare proceed to illegal actions in the Cypriot EEZ because the government has shielded it. But today we see Turkey drilling in block 8 and the international community’s reactions remain on a verbal level.
The EU, after blackmail and pressure exerted from our side, will, it says, put two people of the Turkish state oil company on a sanctions list. I wonder how effective these sanctions can be. And at the same time, we see Turkey escalating its aggression and the Cyprus problem getting distant from the possibility of resuming negotiations.
Analyzing all of these developments as a whole, we consider that the government’s tactics have so far failed but not because it isn’t pursuing with consistency the tactics that the rest (of the political parties) want, that is to say, to harden its stance and demand more sanctions and so on.
At this point I must point out that the debate that preceded the publication of the UN Secretary General’s Report on the renewal of the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) must ring a lot of alarm bells for us. Provisions in the Report were introduced that essentially were leading the illegal formation of the occupied territories to an unrecognized entity.
AK: Yes, and that was extremely dangerous. And worst of all, Cyprus’ traditional allies – Russia, France – did not support us as at other times. Only China was left to support us in the front line. This must make us reflect about what the real situation is surrounding the Cyprus problem, with regards the possibility of a resumption of negotiations and so on.
The government shouldn’t be saying that we have convinced the entire international community and that the international community is on our side, because, unfortunately, in practice we find that things are developing differently.
You have said that for a whole year we didn’t drill in the Cypriot EEZ. Was this because of the Cyprus problem?
AK: No. I consider there are serious problems with the development of our energy planning. The government is taking up its time engaging in empty talk.
Firstly, there are contracts that aren’t being respected. These contracts record the obligations companies undertake. Companies are not fulfilling their obligations, and instead of the government imposing fines – which are provided for in the contracts themselves – it goes into the process of discussing with them how the problems could be overcome. We have reached the point of making changes to the Noble – Delek contract, which will deprive the state of approximately 2 billion Euros, arguing that if we don’t give them that extra money they won’t extract natural gas. But in following that logic we will constantly be captive to the moods of the companies.
Furthermore, the ENI Company was blocked by Turkish ships and did not proceed to drill in block 3, and no one is telling us how our energy program will proceed on this block.
We hear general and vague talk that things are proceeding normally and that our energy plans are being fully implemented. But where is the implementation?
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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