Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis reacted sharply on Tuesday to a threat by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to freeze relations with the European Union unless a settlement is found for the Cyprus problem before Nicosia assumes the bloc’s rotating presidency next year. “Instead of showing the will for a solution, it is trying to dictate to the EU its composition and way of operating,” Lambrinidis said.

He added that Erdogan’s comments demonstrate “that the essence of the Cyprus problem is the invasion and continued occupation [of the island],” describing as illegal the visit by Erdogan to the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus on Wednesday, the day that marked the 37th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of the island. Lambrinidis was responding to a strongly worded statement by Erdogan published in the Turkish daily Milliyet.

“We will not have any discussions with the Cypriot president,” Erdogan said, referring to Dimitris Christofias. “Our contacts with the EU will be frozen,” the statement added. “We consider it a disgrace to sit down at the negotiating table with [the Greek Cypriots] at the United Nations. We will not negotiate with a country which we do not recognize,” Erdogan concluded. Christofias condemned the comments as “utterly reprehensible.”

“If the Turkish side pursues this line there is no chance of any real progress,” Christofias said, referring to ongoing UN-mediated peace talks. Turkey’s prime minister repeated his comments on Wednesday, while visiting the occupied Cyprus.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “No one should expect us to sit on the same table with the Greek side even if they were holding the EU presidency,” Erdogan said in occupied Nicosia during celebrations marking the 37th anniversary of the Turkish invasion. It was the clearest warning from Ankara that EU-Turkey relations will be put on hold if Cyprus takes over the EU presidency without a peace accord in hand.

Numerous UN-mediated peace talks have collapsed, hampering Turkey’s own EU bid. The latest peace talks, launched almost three years ago, have also produced limited progress as several core issues remain open, including territorial adjustments and what to do with private property lost during the war. The lack of progress has taxed the patience of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who said earlier this month that he expects both sides to reach agreement by October on all core issues. Erdogan also warned that Turkey and Turkish Cypriots would not wait for a solution indefinetly.

“Everyone should realise the existing window of opportunity (for a solution) will not remain open indefinetly,” he said. (AP)


Meanwhile Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Tuesday came to a decision for the intensification of UN-led negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem. Community leaders have met with the UN on July 7, with whom they agreed on the intensification of the talks.Speaking to the press at the Presidential Palace, after Tuesday’s meeting with Eroglu in the presence of UN Special Advisor, Alexander Downer, President Christofias said that “we agreed that the intensive talks will be held twice a week, lasting all day, until the end of October”, adding that there will be a break between August 7 to 21 and also during the UN General Assembly in September. Christofias expressed hope the Turkish side will “change behavior in order to have progress”.

Furthermore he said that he senses that the UN are also offended by Erdogan’s statements, noting that the UN also wish for genuine progress during the talks. President Christofias had put forward a set of 3 proposals on the Cyprus issue last summer. The second proposal calls for the implementation of Security Council resolution 550 which provides for the return of the fenced off area of Varosha, now under Turkish occupation, to the UN.

The objective of the proposal is to restore the town and return it to its legitimate inhabitants. The proposal envisages also the opening of the city’s port for trade for Turkish Cypriots, under the EU supervision, as well as the restoration of the walled city of Famagusta (old part of the city). Referring to Tuesday’s meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader, President Christofias said that both the UN and Eroglu expressed their condolences over the naval base blast on July 11, adding that “there was also an exchange of views over the electricity supply from the occupied areas”.

“The procedure followed did not involve any ‘official sides’, however I expressed my appreciation for the fact that the Turkish Cypriots stated their willingness to supply us with electricity at this crucial time, without demanding any direct or indirect recognitions of ‘authorities'”, President Christiofias underlined. Arrangements for power supply from the occupied areas were made so as not to entail the upgrading of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, since the issue concerns a private initiative to buy electricity and re-sell it to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus. The arrangements followed the naval blast at Mari which caused 13 fatalities and destroyed Cyprus’ biggest power plant at Vassiliko.

Source: Athens News