Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci says plans to push forward for the EastMed pipeline are counter to peace efforts in the region, adding that an energy solution which excludes Turkey would be a mistake.
Akinci made written remarks on a trilateral meeting on Tuesday in Nicosia between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel, where the leaders of those countries agreed to meet in Beersheba later this year to discuss plans for an EastMed pipeline.
Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades hosted Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and officials representing the three countries signed a number of agreements and memorandums, including cooperation on satellite operations and telecommunications, regional action plans for sea pollution, and relations between the commerce and industry chambers of the three countries.
But the leaders also agreed to hold talks on an ambitious EastMed pipeline, linking Israel and Cyprus with Italy though Greece and the island of Crete. The 2,000 km pipeline, known as East Med, would be able to transfer annually between 9 and 12 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from the Levantine Basin (Cyprus and Israel) and Greece into Europe.
Mustafa Akinci believes that excluding Turkish Cypriots and Turkey from an energy deal in the Mediterranean would not amount to peace and stability in the area
They also discussed linking their countries’ power grids via the underwater EuroAsia Interconnector and reaffirmed their commitment to complete the project. While discussions took place on a number of agreements and improved relations in a number of areas, the focus on energy remained a hot topic.
But Akinci views talks about the East Med pipeline very differently.
He believes that excluding Turkish Cypriots and Turkey from an energy deal in the Mediterranean would not amount to peace and stability in the area.
“As I have many times stated before, this is not a route for peace. It is not possible to contribute to peace and stability in the area by excluding the Turkish Cypriot people and Turkey on the issue of the energy resources in Eastern Mediterranean,” Akinci said.
Akinci: pipeline via Turkey faster, cheaper
Akinci also said Turkish Cypriots have inalienable rights to natural resources in Cyprus, adding that transporting gas to Europe through Turkey would be faster and cheaper and contribute to peace in the region.
The Turkish Cypriot leader criticised the three leaders for agreeing to meet in late 2018 to push forward with the East Med project, while also condemning the European Union for giving funds to the project.
“It is known that the EU has also secured financing for this project,” Akinci said, adding that “a new mistake is about to be added to the serious mistake committed by accepting south Cyprus alone to the EU 14 years ago,” he said.
Criticism against the EU
The Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004 despite a failed referendum a month earlier when Turkish Cypriots in the north voted to reunify Cyprus and join the Union.
But Turkish Cypriots believe it is unfair that Greek Cypriots, who voted against the peace plan in 2004, to join the EU and enjoy the benefits alone.
Greek Cypriots in the south do not believe the referendum should be connected with EU accession, insisting that a future reunification at the right time would benefit all inhabitants of the island while energy profits would benefit both communities.
Akinci sees EU membership for the divided island as counterproductive to peace and reunification efforts.
“If the Greek Cypriot side, which has moved away from the solution after joining the EU, manages to take alone the natural gas wealth and transfer it to Europe by excluding the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey, their motivation for the solution, which is anyway very little, will cease to exist,” Akinci said.
“This development will serve nothing else than the division in Cyprus,” he added.
Cyprus has been divided by ethnic conflict for over half a century. It was further divided in July 1974 when Turkey intervened by invading the northern third part of the island, several days following a short-lived military coup engineered by Athens.
The two sides seem to be far away from reaching consensus on how to bring about peace and unity on the island.