The president of Cyprus on Tuesday rebuked a United Nations envoy for speaking of a possible crisis over the ethnically divided country’s search for offshore oil and gas, calling the remark “unacceptable” and a “threat” amid faltering reunification talks.
The envoy, Espen Barth Eide, was quoted in the Greek newspaper To Vima as expressing concern about the issue. In similar remarks earlier this month, Eide said an “international crisis” could lead to a collapse of the ongoing talks aiming at reunifying Cyprus as a federation.
“I regret that I’m being harsh about it, but I’ve made complaints directly that I consider such remarks unacceptable, especially if they’re made in the form of a threat,” President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters.
It’s the second time this month that Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, has leveled strong criticism at Eide, accusing him of bias.
Turkey and the Cypriot government are sharply divided over the energy search.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece.
Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, opposes what it calls a unilateral Greek Cypriot project which flouts the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots. In March, the Turkish Foreign Ministry warned that it would “take all necessary measures to protect its interests” in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as those of the Turkish Cypriots. Turkey is also said to claim part of gas exploration areas, or blocks, off Cyprus’ western and southern coast.
French energy company Total is scheduled to drill an exploratory well off Cyprus’ southern coast in mid-July.
Peace talks are at a standstill after Eide called off mediation efforts last week when Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci failed to find common ground on holding a final summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Anastasiades insists on prioritizing at the summit an agreement on withdrawing more than 35,000 troops that Turkey has kept in the island’s breakaway north since 1974. Akinci maintains that all issues should be discussed in a give-and-take process.
Anastasiades said Tuesday there would be no point to a Geneva summit if Turkey isn’t ready to discuss the security issue.