Turkish FM tetchy ahead of talks in Athens

Three weeks before a Greek-Turkish summit in Athens, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Greece and Cyprus on Tuesday of trying to “frighten” his country by signing an agreement with Egypt.

Cavusoglu made the comment with regards to the Cairo Declaration signed by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt earlier this month. The three countries agreed to cooperate more closely on a range of issues, including energy, which is a sensitive issue in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Turkish foreign minister also criticized Nicosia for carrying out hydrocarbon explorations off Cyprus at a time when reunification talks with Turkish Cypriots are still in progress. Cavusoglu said this was not a “goodwill gesture” on Nicosia’s part but he played down the significance of Turkey sending the Barbaros seismic research vessel into Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.

The Cypriot government, however, was unmoved by Cavusoglu’s comments and a meeting of the National Council, chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades, led to Nicosia rejecting a suggestion by United Nations mediator Espen Barth Eide for a technical committee consisting of Greek and Turkish Cypriots to be created to manage the island’s hydrocarbon reserves.

Eide had proposed the panel as one of several measures aimed at getting peace talks restarted. Instead, Anastasiades will propose steps that had been previously agreed by Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to defuse tension. These include the creation of a common fund for revenues from any gas or oil sold.

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