Greek Foreign Minister travels to Nicosia with the Cyprus issue at the forefront

Greek Foreign Minister travels to Nicosia with the Cyprus issue at the forefront

Athens-Nicosia co-ordination before Katrougalos’ visit to Turkey and the meeting with Cavusoglu

By Michalis Michael

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos is expected to make his first visit to Cyprus after taking up his duties, at a crucial juncture for the Cyprus issue. The Greek Foreign Minister had a meeting on the sidelines of a conference on Syria in Brussels with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. Although the full content of the discussion was not disclosed, it is believed to have been the first step between the two countries, with the next scheduled for March 21 in Antalya. These moves come as the continuation of the framework set by Greece and Turkey and the statements on bilateral relations that were made by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during the visit of the former in Ankara.

For Nicosia, these moves on behalf of Greek diplomacy mark the start of a mobility in the Cyprus issue, at a time when everyone expect from UN envoy, Jane Lute, her own moves to draft the terms of reference. Until then, with the latter’s arrival being expected in the following period in Cyprus, the big question remains Turkey’s position.

Security-guarantees

On these two issues, which constitute the external aspect of the Cyprus problem, both Nicosia and the international factor want to know where Ankara stands. Greece and Turkey had agreed, after Mr Tsipras’ visit to Ankara, to form a preparatory dialogue on the issue of the external aspect of the Cyprus problem. That is, of security and guarantees.

Which it should be note was the cause of the collapse of the talks in Crans Montana, Switzerland, with Cavusoglu, in the notorious dinner of July 6, 2017, announcing that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus would be “flexible”.

This “flexibility” is what Greek and Cypriot want to clarify now, and the next stop of Greek FM to Turkey will be key in this regard. The question remains, however, whether in his visit to Nicosia, Katrougalos brings with him a message from the Turkish diplomacy.

Coordination and… energy issues

Greece and Cyprus traditionally resort to joint co-ordination before similar visits to Turkey so that all the necessary messages can be transferred with certainty.

Lute also received her own messages from Turkish diplomacy after her visit to Ankara and the meeting with Cavusoglu. Hence the great interest in her next visit to Cyprus, since it might coincide with the visit to Katrougalos to Ankara. The facts and information expected from both sides will also greatly determine the next day in the Cyprus issue.

Given that Lute will try to bridge the differences between the parties in Cyprus as regards the terms of reference, Csavusoglu has talked about political equality as a sine qua non, so this will be one of the factors that will play a major role – much to the satisfaction of the Turkish Cypriot side. But at the same time that this diplomatic skein unfolds, developments are also recorded in the energy sector, since, according to Reuters, ExxonMobil is interested in a deposit on an Israeli plot.

If the presence of the American company on a more permanent basis in the Eastern Mediterranean becomes a reality, keeping in mind the recent announcements on the finds in the Cypriot EEZ, the question is what will Turkey do, having threatened with drillings in the Cypriot EEZ in the following period.

All the above-mentioned facts on the Cyprus issue will be in progress and can clearly affect and be affected by developments./ibna