Natural gas will not be part of Cyprus talks, says President

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Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has reiterated that natural gas will not be part of any Cyprus problem settlement talks.

President Anastasiades was replying to questions during a press conference in which he briefed the press regarding the meetings he had during his visit to the US.
Replying to a question as to what role natural gas could play in the talks and whether the prospect of a pipeline could entice Turkey, he said that natural gas would not play a part in the talks.

“Would you wish it to play a role in the talks or to blow up the talks?” he asked.
He reiterated the position that natural gas belongs to all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and that if through a solution the state becomes a federal one, natural gas will belong to the citizens of the federal state.
“Before the solution nothing of the sort is under discussion”, he pointed out.

Replying to questions the Cyprus President made it clear that convergences as described in a document prepared by UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer relating to talks in the period 2008 – 2012 are not accepted.
Invited to comment on statements made by Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on the proposal accepted by Turkey that the Greek Cypriot negotiator meet with representatives of the Turkish government, he recalled that Eroglu’s initial position was that even the appointment of a Greek Cypriot negotiator was not acceptable.

Referring to allusions to a quadripartite conference he pointed out that no such issue is on the table since both Greece and Cyprus have made it abundantly clear that they do not accept such a proposition.
Replying to a question as to whether Downer has proposed the inclusion of Greece and Turkey in the talks President Anastasiades said that this was never raised on the part of Downer.

Asked how statements made by Turkish Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz that Turkey will conduct seismic surveys within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will be dealt with he said that undoubtedly such moves would create tension, adding that they would also prove bad faith on the part of Turkey.
He focused on the fact that during the meetings he had with US Vice President Jo Biden, the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers and permanent representatives of UN Security Council permanent member states it was evident that the Republic of Cyprus’ exercise of its sovereign rights within its EEZ is recgonised and no one would think to put it into question.
On the contrary, President Anastasiades added, “everyone put it strongly and particularly the United States that no one is entitled to question the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights”.

Replying to a question as to whether there are signs that Turkey is changing, he noted that right now there are neither any encouraging nor any discouraging messages. This will be evident in the weeks to come, he added.
He further highlighted the importance of good preparation of talks as opposed to the timing of the talks.

Replying to a question on how far can the boldness of proposals go as regards the return of the fenced off part of the city Famagusta, known as Varosha, he pointed out that it is the Turkish side which has to be bold.
It has been repeatedly said, he noted, that the Cypriot government is ready to accept the operation of the port of Famagusta under EU supervision if the fenced off part of Famagusta was to be return to its lawful residents. At the same time once Turkey opened its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircraft, the government of Cyprus could proceed to lift its veto on Turkey’s EU accession course chapters.

These positions are known, President Anastasiades said, adding that what is needed is for the occupying power, Turkey, to be bold and courageous, particularly if one takes into account that Famagusta is within a military zone and is under full Turkish occupation.
Asked whether he would put an eventual agreement for a solution before the people by way of referendum he replied that, that would obviously be the case.

Replying to a question as to what will the Turkish Cypriot negotiator talk about with the Greek government, the Cyprus President said that there is no reason to worry, as the process will merely act as an additional supportive measure in the effort for a solution.
Greece, he pointed out, does not occupy any part of Cyprus, neither does it maintain military occupation forces, nor does it interfere with the Republic of Cyprus’ governance.
The role of Greece vis-à-vis the role of Turkey in the Cyprus problem are not comparable, he stressed.
Asked whether there was an effort during his visit in the US to put pressure on him and to somehow bring back on the table the UN settlement plan, known as the Annan Plan after the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected at referendum in 2004 by the Greek Cypriot electorate, he clarified that no one mentioned that plan.

The only person who mentioned it was Turkish President Abdullah Gül, he said, adding that he replied that the plan was rejected following a democratic process, by an overwhelming majority and that it cannot excuse Turkey from its responsibilities.
Replying to a question as to what steps are been taken to prepare citizens about an eventual evolution of the Republic of Cyprus to a federation, President Anastasiades said the foremost priority is the preparatory work done by the Working Groups and that advice is being sought by international experts so that an overall framework of proposals for a solution can be prepared.

He also referred to the continuous communication he has with members of the National Council and political party leaders.
He refused to compare his first months of Presidency to those of previous Presidents of the Republic on the Cyprus problem, noting that he would rather avoid any comparisons or criticism on that matter.

His effort, he noted, is to enhance Cyprus’ credibility whilst at the same time putting forward positions, which seem to be accepted.
He made it clear that he does not wish to enter talks for the sake of talks as regards the Cyprus problem and said that talks should be meaningful and result orientated.

Asked whether Turkey wishes to drag the Greek Cypriot side to a dialogue in order to change the model of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation he said that one is not dragged to participate in talks but rather you choose to enter talks after having consulted with all the other political forces as well as the forces which support and want a solution.
We should not constantly express concern over what might happen, but rather to say that we possess the will, determination and boldness to prepare well, to set out what we do not accept and to know until which point we can go and remain steadfast on positions of principle.

This is the direction towards which we are moving, he noted, in order to have the widest possible support on the part of the EU and the international community.
Asked what incentives will be given Greek Cypriot refugees so that they do not apply to the illegal committee on properties in the occupied areas President Anastasiades said that a report has been prepared by members of the National Council on the matter and it includes a package of proposals on how the issue can be dealt with.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Previous UN – led efforts to reunify the island have failed.