Cavusoglu hopeful on Cyprus solution but says Barbaros staying put

Turkey will not back down from its position that Cyprus will have to stop exploring for hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone for the Turkish research vessel Barbaros to depart the area, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said ahead of talks between Greek and Turkish officials starting in Athens on Friday.

Speaking to Kathimerini before the High-Level Cooperation Council, which is due to bring Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to the Greek capital, Cavusoglu indicated he is hopeful the talks will help settle recent disputes.

“We worked hard to prepare this important meeting in Athens. It will be substantive but also a very symbolic meeting for us,” he said. “We will discuss many issues. Bilateral issues, regional issues, as well as the Cyprus issue.”

Turkey’s foreign minister said that he is “very happy to see the more active involvement of Greece as motherland and guarantor power” in Cyprus following the suspension of talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

“Greece is playing a constructive role recently to bring back the two sides to the table for meaningful negotiations,” said Cavusoglu.

When questioned about whether Turkey would consider withdrawing the Barbaros to facilitate the resumption of talks, the neighboring country’s top diplomat indicated this would not happen as long as Nicosia continues its search for oil and gas without the involvement of Turkish Cypriots. “Whenever the unilateral drilling activities will stop we will withdraw the Barbaros,” he said.

Cavusoglu acknowledged that Greece and Cyprus have rejected the option of involving the Turkish Cypriots in the hydrocarbons process at this stage but appeared optimistic that the problem would be overcome.

“We are discussing this and we will find a solution together,” he said. “I am optimistic, I am positive. I am for a solution and the resumption of the negotiations.”

Cavusoglu also wished Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who underwent heart surgery in New York this week, a speedy recovery. “I hope he will get well soon,” he said. “I wish him health and to return soon to the talks.”

The Turkish diplomat stressed, however, that time for finding a solution to the Cyprus issue is running out. “We need to solve this problem soon,” he said. “This is the last window of opportunity and we should not miss it.”