The dispute over maritime borders and distribution of gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean cannot be settled unless the division of Cyprus is resolved, said EU lawmaker Marton Gyongyosi.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, the member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs expressed hope that international organizations including the EU, NATO and the UN will finally acknowledge the historical context which the conflict derives from and step up to mediate.
“I share concerns that this diplomatic standoff might turn into an open military conflict. But I was shocked by the level of ignorance of history and geographical facts that surrounds this whole issue. I am worried that a lot of EU officials and representatives don’t see the problem,” Gyongyosi said.
- Divided Cyprus
“The division of Cyprus has been a problem for over 40 years which has led to a continuous antagonism between two valuable NATO member states, Turkey and Greece,” the politician said, explaining that the EU also imported this conflict with the accession of Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus into the bloc.
This way, “Greece and Cyprus are playing out the card of EU solidarity concerning the brawl in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
According to Gyongyosi, who is also the executive vice-president of Hungary’s center-right Jobbik party, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s “clear, strategic and clever plan to share power between Turkish and Greek Cypriots in governance” would have brought a long-term solution.
But, at the 2004 referendum on the plan, “the majority of Turkish Cypriots adopted it while the Greek Cypriots rejected the solution, knowing that the EU was going to welcome them as an EU member and Turkish Cypriots would get off the map.”
“In 2004, the EU made an enormous mistake by integrating [Greek] Cyprus. They should have taken a firm position on making reconciliation between the Turkish and the Greek Cypriots as an underlining condition of EU accession,” Gyongyosi said.
- Limitless territorial claims
“It doesn’t take a lot of wisdom to foretell that without sorting out the ethnic conflict, the problem would cause anxiety and division between EU states if we import a problem that could have been sorted out before the accession,” he added.
This is why “Greece can completely isolate Turkey when drawing the borders of its exclusive economic zone and claiming limitless territories based on the small islands close to the Turkish coast.”
According to the EU lawmaker, the judgments of the International Court of Justice from the early 1980s concerning the continental shelf in the dispute between Tunisia and Libya support Turkey's arguments because they state that islands have a limited influence in determining maritime borders.
- Tensions in Eastern Mediterranean
Tensions have recently escalated over the issue of energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece has disputed Turkey’s energy exploration in the region, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey -- the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean -- has sent out drill ships to explore for energy reserves on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have rights in the region.
In order to reduce tensions, Turkey has called for dialogue to ensure the fair sharing of resources.
The EU also called for negotiations between the parties. EU leaders will discuss the conflict as well as the bloc’s relations with Turkey during their extraordinary summit in Brussels on Sept. 24-25.
In order to prepare for the leaders’ meeting, the European Parliament will adopt a resolution on the topic this week.
Reporting by Agnes Szucs in Brussels, Belgium