It has been more than half a century since the Greek Cypriots violently hijacked the Republic of Cyprus in 1963, which was established by the 1960 Treaties and based upon a partnership between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, on the basis of political equality. Because of the intransigent attitude of the Greek Cypriot side, the negotiation processes carried out under the auspices of the United Nations since 1968 have failed to yield positive results. Despite the constructive approach shown by Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the latest negotiation process also failed as the last round of the comprehensive settlement processes, the Conference on Cyprus, closed without an outcome in Crans Montana in July 2017.
The main reason for the failure of these negotiations is that the Greek Cypriot side refuses to share power with the Turkish Cypriots. We witness that there has been no change in the mindset of the Greek Cypriot side since the closure of the Conference on Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot leader still sees himself as the head of a unitary state and a leader granting rights to minorities. He reveals that he is far away from accepting the political equality of the Turkish Cypriot side.
As Turkey, we have been underlining that negotiations could not resume from the point where the Conference on Cyprus was closed in 2017 without an outcome.
We have been emphasizing that in order to restart negotiations it should be determined in advance what will be negotiated, in which direction and within the framework of which modalities. For the last fifty years, the negotiations aiming at a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation have remained inconclusive. We do not consider it beneficial to engage in a new open-ended exercise with no clear vision or purpose, and to start negotiations for the sake of negotiating. As the Turkish side, we do not exclude or insist on any settlement model. We advocate that all options should be on the table. Rather than the name of the settlement model, the important thing for us is that the settlement secures the political equality of the Turkish Cypriots and their effective participation in decision taking mechanisms, as well as their welfare and security.
On the other hand, if a new negotiation process is to be launched, it should be confirmed in advance that the two sides on the Island have a common vision and that they are ready for negotiations on a common ground. Under the current circumstances, where the Greek Cypriot side is stepping back from past convergences and not accepting the political equality of the Turkish Cypriots, it is difficult to say that such a common ground exists.
We are face to face with a Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) that makes full use of all the advantages of EU membership and sees itself as the sole owner of the Island. The Greek Cypriot side is willing to share neither the political power nor the natural resources of the Island with the Turkish Cypriots who are the co-owners of the Island. By their unilateral hydrocarbon related activities, the Greek Cypriot Administration not only disregards the Turkish Cypriots’ inherent rights on the natural resources, but also violates Turkey’s rights stemming from international law on its continental shelf registered with the United Nations.
We have emphasized since the very beginning that while making any decisions on the Island’s common resources, Turkish Cypriots should also be included in the decision making mechanisms. The Greek Cypriot side rejected the cooperation proposals offered by the Turkish Cypriot authorities in 2011 and 2012. Moreover, the GCASC unfortunately does not consider the issue of hydrocarbons as an element that should be shared and decided jointly with the Turkish Cypriots. GCASC claims that it preserves the share of the Turkish Cypriots which will be given to them following the settlement. While the Greek Cypriot side is now marketing the resources of the Island and proceeding to generate income, it is not acceptable for neither us nor the Turkish Cypriots that the Turkish Cypriots would leave their rights after a solution which has been prevented by the Greek Cypriots.
Hence, the proposal put forward by the Turkish Cypriots on 13 July 2019 concerning the hydrocarbon resources was utterly accurate and well-timed.
This proposal, which we fully support, envisages that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, as the co-owners of the Island, cooperate on hydrocarbon resources over which they have equal rights, including revenue sharing and benefit from these resources simultaneously. The implementation of this proposal will initiate a new cooperation era, contribute to the regional peace, stability and cooperation, and also provide a conducive atmosphere for the settlement of the Cyprus issue.
The hydrocarbons issue in the Eastern Mediterranean has two aspects. One is related to the protection of Turkey’s continental shelf rights, and the other is the Cyprus issue itself.
Having the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey resolutely protects its rights and interests within its continental shelf. It is not correct to establish a direct link between this matter and the Cyprus issue. Indeed, we continue our exploration and drilling activities within the areas -where we have registered our continental shelf rights both geographically and legally before the UN as of 2004- in which our Government granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012. Fatih, our drilling vessel, is still operating within the Turkish continental shelf. We see that the Greek Cypriot Administration bluster in almost every platform, and put forward baseless complaints to the effect that “Turkey violates our EEZ”. Why baseless? Because, with regard to the area where Fatih is drilling vessel, the maritime jurisdiction area between Turkey and the Island of Cyprus is not delimited yet through a maritime delimitation agreement. Therefore, it is not legally possible to make a definition such as “EEZ of Greek Cypriot Administration” for this area. Turkey’s approach on this issue is consistent with international law. According to the law of the sea, when delimitation is in question, the islands may be given limited effect -or even no effect in certain cases- in terms of generating continental shelf and EEZ compared to continental coastlines, in cases where the existence of islands distorts the equitable delimitation. Automatic equal distance/median line method has absolutely no place in international law. Equitable delimitation is the main principle in accordance with international law, including case law and jurisprudence. Delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas should be effected either through a bilateral agreement that does not violate the rights of the third parties or by bringing the issue before an international judiciary mechanism. For example, as far as Turkey’s continental shelf rights are concerned, the so-called Greek Cypriot-Egypt 2003 EEZ agreement is invalid and void, not only because of the very existence of the Cyprus issue, but also because the delineation line in the said agreement violates Turkey’s continental shelf. The delimitation issue in the west of the Island can only be addressed following the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, which would make it possible for Turkey to engage with an international entity which she would recognize.
The second dimension concerns the protection, in accordance with international law, of the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriots who are the co-owners of the Island. In this regard, we are steadfastly giving full support to the TRNC. Our activities where Turkish Cypriot Government granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum in 2011 falls within this context. Our drilling vessel Yavuz and seismic vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa are conducting their activities in these areas.
In a nutshell, as Turkey, we realized all the actions we emphasized all along in the field. Thus, we respond by taking actual steps in the field, to the insistent unilateral hydrocarbon activities of the Greek Cypriot side in exclusion of the Turkish Cypriots. Turkey will continue its principled and resolute stance. Indeed, as our President has stated on every occasion, we will never allow violation of the legitimate rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots.
Unless Greek Cypriots would go for a cooperation, which includes a joint decision making mechanism with Turkish Cypriots –the equal partner of the Island, and unless a cooperative mechanism would be established as envisaged in the proposal dated 13 July, Turkey will resolutely continue its activities, without a pause, within the areas where TRNC granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum.
We are in favor of peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. In terms of history and geopolitics, Turkey, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, is in a key position for the stability and security of the region. In this context, any quest for partnership and cooperation intending to exclude Turkey in the region is destined to fail. As a matter of fact, this should be seen as a natural consequence of the realities of the region and international law.
It is clear that the Turkish Cypriots are the victim of the continuation of the status quo on the Island. We will never allow the Turkish Cypriots, who have approved the Annan Plan -which was rejected by the Greek Cypriot people, have made every effort to find a solution, have given all the sacrifices expected from them and have shown the positive and constructive attitude in the Cyprus Conference which ended in July 2017 in Crans-Montana, to pay the price for the non-settlement. Turkey has never left the Turkish Cypriots alone, and exerted every effort to protect their rights and interests. She will never shy away from any sacrifice in the future.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey. The article has been published in “Kıbrıs Postası” (TRNC) on 14 July 2019.