Bagis: Turkey's Patience is Running Thin over Cyprus

Bagis: Turkey's Patience is Running Thin over Cyprus

BRUSSELS - Turkey wants a diplomatic solution to resolve the division of Cyprus but patience is running thin and the international community must increase pressure on the Greek Cypriots if it wants to see a deal, the country's Europe Minister Egemen Bagis said Thursday.

In an interview in Brussels, Bagis also said his country remains committed to the accession talks with the European Union and believes it can join within a decade. However, he hit out at what he called Nicosia's "silly, spoilt" behavior in holding up talks.

Bagis' frustration speaks comes in what many analysts expect to be a difficult year for Turkey-EU relations as Cyprus prepares to take the bloc's presidency in July. Aggravated by the lack of progress to broker a deal over the island, Turkey has said if there is no solution when Cyprus takes up the presidency, Ankara would break off some talks with the bloc.

In an interview with a Cypriot paper last week, Bagis seemed to signal that Turkey could annex Northern Cyprus if unification talks stall. Thursday, Bagis said annexation remained "one of the options" but only if the talks were at a dead end and the Turkish-Cypriot population favored it.

"Whose patience isn't" running out, he asked. "Look, I'm sure the Cypriots want to know what's ahead of them, Turkey wants to know what's ahead of us, Greece would like to know ... So everyone has a vested interest in solving the question. The problem is there is not as much pressure on (Cypriot) President (Demetris) Christofias."

Bagis said the "process has to have a punishment and a reward mechanism--a carrot and a stick--for both sides" for progress to be made.

Rhetoric over ownership of possible oil and gas deposits has aggravated deteriorating relations between Ankara and Nicosia, following the discovery of massive gas fields by Israel and plans by Cyprus to drill as early as next month.

Ankara has said any drilling should wait until the island--divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus in response to a Greek-backed coup--is reunified.

The Republic of Cyprus is an EU member state, but isn't recognized by Turkey. By contrast, Turkey is the only country to recognize the administration of the government of the island's ethnic-Turkish North.

Bagis pointed to Nicosia as the prime culprit in bogging down the accession talks.

Turkey started talks with the EU in 2005 but the failure to normalize ties with Nicosia and open skepticism from the likes of France and Germany have meant progress has been very slow. Any EU member state can veto a country's accession.

Since 2005, Turkey has opened 13 of the 33 policy areas that accession talks deal with but it is almost two years since the last chapter was begun. Turkey says Cyprus is blocking talks on everything from justice to education policy to energy, where Ankara has a key role as the EU looks to lessen dependence on Russian gas and oil.

"Seventy percent of the energy resources Europe needs are either to the south, north or east of Turkey and we cannot open the energy chapter because the Greek Cypriots are blocking it," he said. "It's against the European interest ...Why is Cyprus acting in this manner, in this silly, spoilt manner."

Still, Bagis said Turkey was committed to the accession process, believing it made the country stronger and would eventually yields results. He said that within the next decade, Turkey would "definitely" be invited to join the EU.

He said that when that happens, the EU, which is currently enduring a deep debt crisis and faces tight budgets and an aging population, will be running ads in Turkey to persuade Turks to vote yes.

"Turkey's economy is growing, Turkey's population is the youngest in Europe, Turkey has the most capable military ... My new slogan is hold on tight in Europe, Turkey's coming to the rescue."

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
jacoon | Mar. 12, 2012
An equal point of view should be established when it comes to thinking over these kind of controversial topics. First of all, the term "invasion" is not the right word portraying the situation in the island. Greek coup together with Cypriot pan-hellnistic racist moves had killed thousands of Turkish Cypriots which yielded Turkeys intervention to the island in 1974. Second, oil&gas reserves on quesiton are islands reserves and not solely belonging to one community, Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots should also have rights as the Greeks have. However in this disputed condition no sound solution can be achieved. The only solution benefiting both communties as well as the whole mediterranenan region is an equal rights based governance with unification in the island. Thats why Greek Cypriots should be persuaded to give up their ambitious and one-sided plans and to reach a reasonable, peaceful compromise.

Michael C Petsas | Mar. 9, 2012
Please Help me understand this. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, forced all the Greek Cypriot population out of the occupied north and confiscated all their properties. Since 1974 Turkey maintains a military force of at least 40,000 troops in the occupied north. At the same time at least 200,000 settlers from Turkey were moved to the island and were granted these confiscated properties, thus changing the demographic mix. And now Turkeys patience is running thin? For Gods sake lets call things the way they are! For how long is Europe and the rest of the world going to tolerate such arrogance?

Pr4f. Colin D. Heaton | Mar. 9, 2012
This sitution as explained in the article should be no surprise. I was a grade school boy living in Nicosia, during the Grievas/Makarios civilwar, and my family had to be evacuated due to the Turkish invasion of 1974. My mother worked with Ambasador Davis who was murdered in his office. The Greeks have a valid point regarding the hatred they feel after what the Turks did when they invaded. They also fear any implementation of Sharia Law from radicals who are gaining in strength within the Turkish legal and political system. The Turks feel disenfranchized due to their lack of any real voice in Cypriot policis, hence a "separate but equal" policy, where the Greeks maintain the power at the expense of the Turkish minority.

Deepwater805 | Mar. 9, 2012
Turkey needs to stop being so immature about Cyprus. The Cypriots finally have a way to become energy self-sufficient, and the Turks are simply jealous. When will Turkey respect Cyprus soveriegnty?


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