In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro published Thursday, President Nicos Anastasiades said that in responding Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, the EU did not act in a decisive and united fashion, while refuting that Cyprus vetoed sanctions against Belarus.
The interview was titled ‘Nicos Anastasiades: “Turkey has become a troublemaker in the region”’, with the subtitle noting that “the President of the Republic of Cyprus is struggling so that the EU moves to impose sanctions against Turkey, whose ships are violating Cyprus’ maritime space.”
The Le Figaro interview
What do you expect from the European Summit, which has been postponed to 1 October?
Diplomatic and political solutions to the Turkish issue. For quite some time now, Turkey has been trying to impose its illegal claims on the Eastern Mediterranean by violating the Greek maritime space and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus. We are witnessing an expansionist policy of Turkey throughout the region, up to Syria and Libya. Especially in recent weeks, when a major incident between Greek and Turkish ships was averted at the last minute.
After pressure and a month later, the Turkish research vessel Oruç Reis, which violated Greek and Cypriot sovereignty, withdrew to make room for dialogue. Let us be clear now, Turkey's challenges are, in fact, an invasion of the Cypriot EEZ. That is why, at the informal meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Berlin, we all reached an agreement to extend some of the existing sanctions against Turkey, because we want to send a clear message: that its conduct cannot go unanswered and without consequences. We will respond with deeds, not just words.
In your opinion, was the EU sufficiently present over the summer on this issue?
Listen, Turkey has become a troublemaker in the region, endangering security and peace, as well as the EU. I regret to note that the EU has not acted unitedly and decisively in tackling this situation. The position of France, of President Macron, was the most decisive, as it showed a clear and strong determination against the illegal methods of Turkey. We are grateful to him, he is a ray of hope to save the principles and values of the European Union and to defend international law.
Did Cyprus veto sanctions against Belarus?
On the contrary! Cyprus is in favor of sanctions against Belarus, and in fact we have proposed stricter sectoral sanctions against Belarus. We insist that there can be no selective sensitivity to violations of international law or human rights. We do not want double standards in the European family.
If Turkey stopped the challenges, would it not be an opportunity for dialogue on the reunification of Cyprus?
Without a doubt. If EU decisions are such that they can lead Turkey to end its illegal activities in the territorial waters of Cyprus, as well as its threats and plans for the settlement of Famagusta, then the necessary conditions will be on the table for a constructive dialogue. . I would like to stress, however, that we have responded positively to the intention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, to convene a new conference on Cyprus. Unfortunately, Turkey rejects it.
A dialogue has started between Greece and Turkey. Is the same happening with Cyprus?
We welcome a dialogue between Greece and Turkey. A perspective we could look at. I remind you that we requested a dialogue with Ankara, clarifying that otherwise we would be ready to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Unfortunately, Turkey did not respond and preferred to violate the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus.
What Ankara is claiming is mainly the natural gas deposits located at the bottom of Cyprus. At what stage are the drillings in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, where the French company Total has also obtained a license?
Our energy program has not changed. The companies authorized in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus have been forced, due to the coronavirus pandemic, to postpone drilling activities until 2021. We are in the process of redefining the schedules, this is a sign of confidence on the part of these companies.
Turkey wants to move forward with the opening of Famagusta, a Cypriot ghost town guarded by the Turkish army since 1974. Will this jeopardize peace negotiations?
We have reported it to both the EU and the UN. Personally, I have spoken several times with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I want to hope that the UN Security Council, as the Secretary-General himself assured me in his letter, is monitoring the situation and preventing the violation of international resolutions on the city of Famagusta. I also intend to put this issue on the table at the forthcoming European Summit.