Thu, Jul 20, 2017 8:18 AM
By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, AP
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey's prime minister on Thursday appeared to shut the door on reviving efforts to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus anytime soon after high-level talks earlier this month failed to produce a hoped-for breakthrough deal.
Binali Yildirim said it would be pointless to pick up where things left off at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, where 10 days of intensive, U.N.-facilitated negotiations collapsed on July 7.
"It is clear that there is no point to continue negotiations from where they stopped," Yildirim said during celebrations in Cyprus' breakaway Turkish Cypriot north for Turkey's 1974 invasion that followed a coup aiming at union with Greece.
Yildirim said Greek Cypriots were to blame for the collapse of the talks because they weren't ready for a deal.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would consider other alternatives to the current U.N. format of reunifying Cyprus as a federation made up of Greek and Turkish speaking zones.
The talks in Switzerland between the island's Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also included top diplomats from Cyprus' "guarantors" — Greece, Turkey and Britain.
Greek and Greek Cypriot officials said the talks ultimately failed because of a Turkish and Turkish Cypriot insistence on incorporating a Turkish troop presence and Turkish military intervention rights as part of any peace accord.
Seeing them as a threat, Greek Cypriots wanted removed all of the 35,000 troops that Turkey has kept in the breakaway north since 1974 and replaced by an international police force. They also insisted on the abolition of any military intervention rights. The minority Turkish Cypriots insisted on keeping Turkish troops they see as their sole guardians.
Yildirim also repeated that a Greek Cypriot search for oil and gas off Cyprus is "dangerous" and is wrecking any chance at reunification.
He said Turkey sees the east Mediterranean's potential hydrocarbons wealth as an opportunity for regional cooperation. But he called the search by the island's Greek Cypriot dominated government as "one-sided" and "badly timed."
A consortium composed of France's Total and Italy's Eni is now conducting exploratory drilling 104 miles (167 kilometers) off Cyprus' southern coast, close to a huge deposit in Egyptian waters estimated to hold 30 trillion cubic feet of gas. Drilling results are expected in early September. A field estimated to contain more than 4 trillion cubic feet of gas has already been found elsewhere in Cypriot waters.
Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state, insists drilling flouts Turkish and Turkish Cypriot rights to Cyprus' mineral riches.