Turkey must end threats and reassure Nicosia that it is really pushing for a peace settlement on the divided island, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has said.
“Aphrodite’s gift: Can Cypriot gas power a new dialogue?”, a newly-published report by the international think-tank, documents growing hostility in the eastern Mediterranean following Nicosia's decision to drill for hydrocarbon reserves off Cyprus's southern coast in September 2011.
Ankara has responded with tough rhetoric, naval maneuvers and threats to conduct its own exploration operations around the island.
The ICG report urges Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to seek mutual advantage from the finds in a bid to reduce tensions. Both sides, it says, should agree to share revenues from any hydrocarbon exploitation and establish an advisory committee to discuss joint use and distribution.
“A joint approach to eastern Mediterranean natural gas exploitation would ensure benefits for all, while unilateral moves mean lower profits, tensions and delays that could crush current projects,” said Hugh Pope, the organization's Turkey/Cyprus project director.
Furthermore, the NGO calls for a change in Turkey's foreign policy.
“Turks and Turkish Cypriots should avoid aggravating tensions and abstain from taking actions inside Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” the ICG said in a statement.
“Turkey must also adopt a long-term strategy that ends threats and reassures Greek Cypriots that it truly aims for a Cyprus settlement, normalization and a withdrawal of Turkish troops,” it said.
Cyprus has been divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. UN-sponsored peace talks between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have stumbled since they were relaunched in 2008.