Turkey's Erdogan says sees opportunity for Cyprus deal

WASHINGTON Thu May 16, 2013 8:37pm EDT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) listens to U.S. President Barack Obama during a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) listens to U.S. President Barack Obama during a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, May 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he saw a good opportunity for progress towards ending the division of Cyprus, a move that could further the exploitation of natural gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean.

The island has been divided since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish invasion of the north in 1974. Turkey keeps some 30,000 troops in the north and is the only nation to recognize the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Efforts to reunite the island have repeatedly failed, but Turkish officials say the election in February of President Nicos Anastasiades, who backed a 2004 U.N. plan to resolve the division, presents the best hope in years of reaching a deal.

"We believe that there is a lot of opportunity to reach an agreement on the Cyprus issue, and this is an area which we continue to focus on," Erdogan said at a news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama during a trip to Washington.

Anastasiades backed the 2004 plan proposed by then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, even though a majority of his Greek Cypriot compatriots rejected it in a referendum shortly before the island joined the European Union.

The Turkish Cypriots in the north backed Annan's proposal.

"We're optimistic, we're working for a solution and we are asking the United States to apply diplomatic support to this as well," a Turkish official said ahead of talks between Erdogan and Obama.

Turkey itself began EU entry talks in 2005, a year after Cyprus was admitted, but its bid has been blocked by the intractable dispute over the island, as well as by longstanding opposition from core EU members Germany and France.

The Mediterranean island concluded a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout deal with the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund in April to stave off bankruptcy.

Development of its offshore Aphrodite gas field, which may contain 5 trillion to 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, could reverse its financial fortunes. But Turkey has strongly warned it against exploiting the gas before a settlement is reached.

Turkey has meanwhile drilled exploratory onshore oil wells on the north of the island that have shown traces of hydrocarbons, further exacerbating the tensions.

(Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Jim Loney)

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Comments (5)
Reuters1945 wrote:
“Turkey’s Erdogan says sees opportunity for Cyprus deal”.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is rushing to play Mr. Nice Guy and mend broken fences after Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus and the stationing of 30,000 troops, ever since, to bolster up the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has never been recognized by a single nation in the world.

The big about face on the part of Turkey is the discovery, by others, of billions of dollars/euros, worth of under sea gas wealth that is believed to exist in many off coast areas surrounding Cyprus.

Turkey is worried that others may beat them to the punch to solidify priceless long term business deals to develop and exploit all the newly discovered gas and possible oil reserves.

Turkey has always had a penchant for keeping their eyes on the “cash register”.

That is precisely why during WW II Turkey refused to allow 767 desperate Jewish Refugees, trapped on a crippled ship, “The Struma”, to disembark at a Turkish port.

The Refugees were attempting to avoid the fate of so many others who ended up in Hitler’s gas chambers. But rather than allow the desperate refugees to leave the boat and continue on to Palestine, the Turkish government ordered that the “The Struma”, with a broken engine and no provisions, be towed out to sea and abandoned to sink in the watery depths.

Once left out on the open sea, the ship was shortly sighted and torpedoed by a Nazi submarine and went down within minutes taking all its men, women and children, to the ocean’s bottom, leaving only one survivor out of almost 800 passengers.

Turkey’s blood chilling reason to sacrifice all the passengers on The Struma, was because they feared antagonizing the Arabs and the British who were determined not to allow any Jews from reaching Palestine.

The deaths of those 767 innocent human beings on The Struma should be added to the more than 1,000,000 (One Million) Armenian people who died during Turkey’s wanton slaughter during the Armenian Genocide, something which Turkey still denies to this very day.

Any nation that cannot openly face up to its past should not be allowed to ever join the EU. The Greeks have good reason to not wish to share Cyprus with Turkey.

May 17, 2013 3:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Ameriguy wrote:
Turkey should remove it’s troops from Cyprus and take the illegal settlers who have colonized the north with them. For 40 years, Turkey has exploited the resourced of the north it stole from the people of Cyprus without any mention of sharing it with the victims. Now, they want to share the riches of legitimate government who they do not even recognize.

May 17, 2013 4:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Thracean wrote:
In addition to 767 desperate Jewish Refugees, I really would like to hear about the Turkish Cypriots who were killed in thousands, by the murderous EOKA organization which was backed by the military junta government.

If the turkish troops got there in 1974, that was because of the junta government.

It is hard to understand the stupid EU policy to impose sanctions on Turkish Cypriots rather than on the Turks of Turkey.

The Turkish Cypriots had nothing to do in this war and have nothing to do today either, but they are the ones who had been punished by the world through sanctions. That’s unfair, I think.

May 19, 2013 12:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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