ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister said Tuesday that Turkey “continues to provoke” in its approach towards ethnically divided island nation of Cyprus and that Ankara was becoming isolated internationally.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the comments during a meeting with visiting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, the first foreign head of state to visit Athens since Mitsotakis won July elections.
Anastasiades’ visit came a day after efforts to restart negotiations to reunify the island hit a snag, when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Greek Cypriots had to agree Turkish Cypriots would have decision-making parity in governing the country before talks could resume.
He also said Turkey’s drilling for natural gas in waters where Cyprus’ internationally recognized government has exclusive rights would continue as long as Greek Cypriots reject a proposal to jointly run a hydrocarbons search with the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
Cavusoglu dismissed a counter-proposal from Anastasiades: splitting potential gas proceeds with the Turkish Cypriots in proportion to their population if Turkey agreed to negotiate the borders of Cyprus and Turkey’s offshore economic zones.
Turkey has been split into an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Turkey continues to maintain more than 35,000 troops in the northern third of the island, which only Turkey recognizes as an independent state.
Tension has been high in the region recently, particularly over natural gas exploration rights in the waters off Cyprus, where the internationally recognized state has exclusive economic rights. Turkey has insisted it also has the right to drill in the area, saying it is protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
“Turkey’s illegal behavior off of the Republic of Cyprus continues to provoke,” Mitsotakis said. “Accompanied by a confrontational rhetoric, this also demonstrates its international isolation.”
Anastasiades said recent statements by Turkey’s foreign minister proved “a strong concern of the Greek Cypriot community, which is the complete control of the Turkish Cypriot community by Turkey.”
Reunification talks have dragged on, with long periods of interruptions, for decades. U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute left Cyprus empty-handed after spending last week shuttling between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to prepare the ground for an eventual return to formal talks.
Mitsotakis and Anastasiades “repeat their absolute will for the resumption of substantive negotiations that will lead to a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem,” the two said in a joint statement released after their meeting.