Opposition Turkey / Cyprus on the energy issue

Press review – week from December 8 to 12, 2008

Information concerning the succession of incidents opposing ships of the Turkish Navy and oil exploration vessels chartered by the Cypriot government has been related very sparingly throughout the month of November. Very little information has filtered about the interventions themselves. It is the Cypriot EU Commissioner Marcos Kyprianou who revealed the incident to the press stating that Nicosia had « submitted all the necessary protests and taken all possible measures », as related by agency AFP.

There has been broader press coverage of the reactions of the Nicosia’s government, especially the letter of protest sent by Cypriot President Christofias to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on November 14. AFP reported some of the contents of this letter: « I find myself in the unpleasant position to express my dismay at the continuation of such aggressive actions. »

The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet stressed the several statements pronounced by the President in Cyprus accusing Turkey of carrying out « provocative actions » in the middle of the reunification negotiations. Hürriyet also mentioned news that has been little broadcasted by the European press: the sending by the Turkish Cypriot leader Ali Talat of a letter of protest against the Greek Cypriot explorative missions to the UN Secretary-General on November 26. In this letter, Talat said that “The Greek Cypriot side’s unilateral activities regarding the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas … before a comprehensive settlement prejudge and violate the rights of Turkish Cypriots”.

If the European press seems little concerned by the incidents of November, it covers much broader the statement of the Foreign Ministers of the 27 EU member states published at the end of the General Affairs and External Relations:  » Turkey has accomplished during the past year, only limited progress, particularly with regard to political reforms ». This statement follows a very negative report from the European Commission published in November.

The energy issue could block an accession process already heavily bogged down. Such eventuality might erode a little more the Ankara’s patience. Le Figaro quoted Cengiz Candar, columnist of the liberal Turkish newspaper Radikal: « Turkey is awaiting a formal confirmation that it will become a member of the EU if it fulfills all criteria for accession. If this should not happen, Turkey would consider turning to other partners”, including Russia, its main supplier of natural gas and influential ally on the regional Caucasian scene.