Respect our rights or no Cyprus talks – Turkish Foreign Minister

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday there would be no further negotiations on Cyprus unless Turkey’s right to resources in the eastern Mediterranean is respected, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“I want to stress when it comes to our national cause of Cyprus that we won’t sit down at the negotiating table just for the sake of negotiating,” Çavuşoğlu said during a budget meeting.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to meet the Greek and Turkish leaders of the divided island of Cyprus in Berlin on Nov. 25 in an attempt to restart reunification talks. The island has been divided since Turkey launched an invasion in 1974 to counter a military coup by a Greek Cypriot faction that favoured unification with mainland Greece.

Çavuşoğlu’s comments on Monday suggest that Ankara’s support for renewed talks will depend on whether the European Union rows back on its threats to sanction Turkey for drilling for gas near Cyprus.

The dispute over the rights to potentially huge hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has come to the fore this year as Turkey stepped up its drilling activities. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, and areas claimed as part of Turkey’s continental shelf overlap with the Cypriot exclusive economic zone.

Turkey is the only country to formally recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and argues that any resources extracted by the Greek Cypriot side infringe on Turkish Cypriots’ rights to the island’s resources.

Four Turkish surveying vessels have been carrying out exploration around the island. The European Union calls these activities illegal, and levied limited sanctions on Turkey in July, and has lined up further sanctions over the drilling.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week after the framework to sanction Turkey was announced that negotiations with the EU could suddenly end, likely referring to Turkey’s stalled EU accession process.