ISTANBUL

Turkey on Friday criticized a statement from an EU leaders’ summit for ignoring Turkish Cypriots, a key party for resolving the recent tension in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The EU statement from a two-day summit due to end today was “far from the truth,” despite the presence of some positive elements, said the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

The text is an example of how some EU countries are trying to improve relations with Turkey, but Greece and the Greek Cypriots have taken Turkish-EU relations “hostage,” said a ministry statement.

But the ministry hailed as “positive” the reference in the text to Turkey and Greece deciding to resume exploratory talks.

In a Thursday statement, the European Council reiterated its “full solidarity with Greece and [Greek] Cyprus, whose sovereignty and sovereign rights must be respected,” without making any mention of the Turkish Cypriots.

“EU leaders stressed that the EU has a strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey,” it added.

“EU leaders welcomed the recent confidence-building steps by Greece and Turkey and the announcement that they will resume their exploratory talks,” the EU statement said.

However, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the issues involved are not merely about demarcating maritime boundaries, but in fact call for comprehensively solving the problems between Turkey and Greece.

Decrying the EU statement for not referring to the Turkish Cypriots, the ministry said the lack of any “mention of fair income sharing between the [island’s] two sides regarding the hydrocarbon resources shows that the EU’s mentality that ignores the Turkish Cypriots continues.”

Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots should talk

The ministry added that until the Cyprus problem has been resolved, the Greek Cypriots must address themselves to their neighbors the Turkish Cypriots, not to Turkey.

There can be no negotiation process with the Greek Cypriot Administration without the Turkish Cypriots, said the ministry.

“For this reason, the EU should call on Greek Cypriots to talk with Turkish Cypriots, not with Turkey,” the statement added.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turks and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus should be brought together as soon as possible to coordinate the hydrocarbon activities they carry out separately and to establish a cooperation mechanism, including equitable revenue sharing, the ministry statement added.

“As long as this is not provided, the Turkish Cypriot side will continue its hydrocarbon activities through TPAO,” the statement added, referring to Turkish Petroleum Corporation, which the Turkish Cypriots licensed to do exploration.

The Greek Cypriot Administration has no intention of sharing either power or wealth with the Turkish Cypriots, the statement added, though the EU feels constrained from saying so due to the Greek Cypriot membership in the bloc.

“That is why the EU cannot play an honest and impartial role in resolving the Cyprus issue,” the statement added.

“The fact that the steps taken by our country to defend both their own rights and the rights of the Turkish Cypriots are considered illegal in the summit decisions and the use of sanctions rhetoric is not constructive,” the ministry said, referring to the EU saying it could impose sanctions on Turkey.

Multilateral conference on Eastern Med

The Foreign Ministry did praise the EU statement for mentioning “a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean” as proposed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara welcomes the fact that “our calls for a solution to the problems in the region through dialogue and diplomacy by protecting the rights and interests” of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus were partially addressed at the EU summit, according to the statement.

“We sincerely wish to develop our relations with the EU in every field in line with the membership perspective and to serve our common interests,” the statement added, referring to Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership.

Pointing out how Turkey has always given full support to those who strive for dialogue, the ministry said: “Now is the time to take mutual steps to achieve concrete results.”

“In this context, we expect the steps committed to in the decision to be fulfilled, including visa liberalization,” the ministry said, stressing a longtime goal of Turkey’s pledged by the EU in 2016, under a refugee agreement.

Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Greece has disputed Turkey’s rights to energy exploration.

Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting its own rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Greece has made maximalist maritime territorial based on small islands just kilometers off the Turkish coast.

To lower tensions, Ankara has called for dialogue and negotiations to ensure fair sharing of the region’s resources.

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