Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kudret Özersay gave a wide-ranging interview to the Greek Cypriot newspaper Politis this weekend, in which he discussed the latest developments on the hydrocarbon issue and urged against the Cyprus negotiations becoming a “vicious cycle.” The interview ran prominently in the Sunday edition of Politis, as well as being picked up widely by other media outlets in both the North and the South.
Answering a question on whether “the Turkish Cypriot side is ready to continue the negotiations from where they stopped at Crans-Montana, on the grounds of the Guterres Framework,” Özersay said: “Our being part of a process which had become a vicious circle is out of the question. The point where the negotiations stopped is also the point where they had collapsed. Therefore continuing the same process from a point where they have already collapsed is pointless.”
Ozersay added, “I think that there is a serious problem not only to do with the process but in the essence of the Cyprus problem. As long as we do not discuss this sincerely, a new negotiation process will not go beyond another vicious circle. We do not want this.”
There is, Ozersay continued, a fundamental disagreement between the two sides regarding their interpretation of the principles of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. There is need for a healthy and frank dialogue in the first instance, instead of a negotiation process, in order to understand whether there is a common vision and understanding.
The Greek Cypriots, he said, are not bothered by the status quo as they consider it to be a continuation of the current situation, and of the ‘Republic of Cyprus,’ which is not recognised by the North. For Turkish Cypriots, he continued, the status quo is unbearable and they would like to change it; however, while the Turkish Cypriot side would like this to be done through a common accepted agreement, it does not mean that they will accept anything proposed to them.
Answering the question of what an alternative solution would look like if the two sides do not reach the target of a common understanding, Ozersay said that no matter what the target and the solution model may be, a common will between Turkish and Greek Cypriots will be needed.
Responding to Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades’s comments about preparations for returning to the negotiating table, Özersay said, “I would be very happy if Anastasiades has the same vision, namely that there is a need for preparations for any new negotiations on the essence of the issues. This needs to be a sincere conversation between the two leaders, without a third person in the room taking notes and keeping score.”
Özersay also stated that the Turkish Cypriot side does not seek recognition of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,’ because the two sides have been negotiating with each other for the past 50 years without one officially recognising the other.
Özersay reiterated the position of President Mustafa Akinci, that it became clear during the settlement talks last summer in Switzerland that the Greek Cypriot side is not ready to share power, especially when it comes to a rotating presidency. He emphasised that one of the fundamental expectations from the Turkish Cypriot side for any eventual settlement is for the Greek Cypriot side to be willing to share power and prosperity. Ozersay said he was disappointed by the recent turn of events and the stance of the Greek Cypriots in the hydrocarbon dispute.
He explained, “The signal we have had from the Greek Cypriots is that you [the Turkish Cypriots] are co-owners of the natural wealth but we will not share it with you. We will do that when we decide, and until then we will decide with which companies and under what conditions the exploitation will take place.” As such, Ozersay asked, “Does it make any sense to say that they recognise us as co-owners?”
It is important, for a common decision mechanism to be put in practice in relation to natural gas, where Turkish Cypriots are recognised as a co-owner party, Ozersay said, adding: “We are not looking for a committee simply to console us on the natural gas issue. This process should start because we are in the middle of a dispute about the hydrocarbon issue, whether we like it or not. There is clearly a need for mediation between the two sides, and this is more urgent than other issues at this moment in time.”
Turning to the idea of establishing a fund to share the proceeds from any hydrocarbon finds, Özersay emphasized that there is no difference between talking about a fund and saying that it will only benefit the Turkish Cypriots after a solution, which would bring uncertainty for the future. “Our view is that the Greek Cypriot side’s statement that a consensus has been reached for natural gas within the jurisdiction of the federal state is meaningless. It is meaningless because we do not have a settlement solution. I could understand this proposal if we were close to a solution or there would be a referendum within two months’ time, but that is not the situation we are in,” he said.
Politis then asked where Özersay saw the TRNC in 10 years’ time – whether it would be part of the EU via a federal state, or whether it would be a separate state in a competitive relationship with the so-called ‘Republic of Cyprus’?
Stressing that the Turkish Cypriots’ demand for self-determination were not only applicable during the negotiations or in partnerships with the Greek Cypriots, Özersay responded, “Our request for self-determination is also valid for all external parties. We do not intend to sacrifice the Turkish Cypriot identity. I believe that the TRNC will represent the will of the Turkish Cypriot people. What we need to do as politicians and other interested parties in the North is to make our institutions part of the international community, with or without a comprehensive settlement, by improving the services that our institutions can offer and by engaging in dialogue with the international community.”
Özersay added that the Turkish Cypriot side is bored of waiting for what others decide for their future, and underlined the need to be open for a peaceful solution to disputes in and around the island.