Greek PM: Cyprus issue a priority for Athens
Turkey’s sending of a vessel to waters off of Cyprus have adversely affected peace talks and the solution process over the divided island, newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said during his first official visit to southern Cyprus.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday in Nicosia after holding talks with President Nicos Anastasiades, Tsipras underlined the close ties between the two countries and highlighted the issue of divided Cyprus as a key priority for his government.

He said: "Turkey's sending of the Barbaros Hayrettin seismic vessel means a clear violation of international law and the sabotaging of peace negotiations."

"Turkey should respect international law and should not threaten them for the continuation of negotiations."

Tsipras added that his new government supported one federation which included both Turkish and Greek nations - two societies and two sides as part of existing United Nations agreements for a permanent solution to the ongoing Cypriot issue.

'Hopeful future'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Dec.10 that Turkey would continue its gas-drilling efforts as long as the Greek Cypriot administration insisted on unilaterally owning the gas reserves in the region.

He vowed to protect Turkish Cypriots’ right to natural gas until a fair distribution of resources was agreed with the Greek Cypriot administration.

Turkish authorities say that both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have rights to the offshore gas reserves around the island, while the Greek Cypriots have declared rights to what they call an "Exclusive Economic Zone" in the waters off the south coast.

Tsipras went on: "It is no coincidence that I chose my first official trip as Prime Minister to be held in Cyprus."

"We have ties of a common glorious history, but also a hopeful future."

"We will vigorously support the efforts of the Republic for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem," he added.

'Radical change'

Asked if the Greek government would proceed with the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone with the Republic of Cyprus, and the right of the Muslims of Thrace to elect a mufti or the creation of a mosque in Athens, Tsipras replied his new government had to be careful with its first steps.

"We have a new government focused on radical change, but no government will take any steps without being able to study them," he said.

Tsipras sent a message to the EU, saying Greece and Cyprus were a pillar of stability in the region and that fact must be understood by those in Europe who thought only in terms of economy.

He said it was "mature and necessary" to have discussions with the Troika - comprised of the IMF, European Central Bank and the European Commission - over Greece's debt liabilities and such talks would prove a positive step for Europe.

Historic elections

Tsipras, the 40-year-old charismatic leader of anti-austerity party Syriza became Greece's youngest prime minister in history after winning national elections a week ago.

He unveiled the country's new government last Tuesday, which includes three Syriza MPs of Turkish-origin.

The Cyprus dispute dates back to 1960, when a Treaty of Guarantee was signed between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, along with the British government, over the island.

The treaty banned the island of Cyprus from participating in any political or economic union with any other state, as well as making other parties guarantee its independence, territorial integrity and security.

Agreements violated

However, in 1963, only three years after the treaty was signed, Turkish Cypriots were ousted by force from all organs of the new republic by their Greek-Cypriot partners, which violated the founding agreements and the Constitution.

The Greek Cypriots, thereafter, claimed to represent the Republic of Cyprus, which was considered illegal and not recognized by Turkey.

Between 1964 and 1974, the international community made several peacemaking efforts that all ended in failure.

In 1974, an attempt by Greece to annex the island through a coup was made, which was resisted by a Turkish peace mission in accordance with the 1960 treaty.

Debt crisis

Consequently, the Turkish Cypriots set up their own republic in 1983, while continuing the search for reconciliation.

While the European Union recognizes the Greek-Cypriot administration in the island, Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus diplomatically.

The negotiations between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots resumed after a two-year pause in February 2013.

The previous round of talks had collapsed amid of the Eurozone debt crisis as the Greek Cypriot side took its turn to occupy the EU presidency in 2012.

However, the Greek-Cypriot administration suspended the talks over the divided island on Oct. 7, 2014 after Turkey sent a ship to monitor an oil-and-gas exploration mission off the coast of Cyprus.

* Magda Panoutsopoulou contributed to this report from Athens
Last Modified: 2015-02-03 10:18:40
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