Nicosia.- The recent discovery of hydrocarbons offshore the divided island is linked with the peace talks and cannot be delinked, UN envoy Espen Barth Eide told The Cyprus Weekly. And even though UN-brokered reunification talks are at an impasse, the Norwegian diplomat argued that the old saying ‘never waste a good crisis’ suits the current state of play in Cyprus.
“It’s a difficult, complicated moment, we are in a stalemate now but I refer to the saying ‘never waste a good crisis’ and I say maybe this crisis has also illustrated the importance of moving ahead,” Eide said in a telephone interview.
“Because the hydrocarbons issue has now been linked to the Cyprus problem, which way it has been linked is a matter for the two sides, but it cannot be unlinked. And it is now an argument – in my view a strong argument – for redoubling everybody’s efforts to reach a solution,” he added. In October, President Nicos Anastasiades suspended his participation at the peace talks after they had resumed in February after a long hiatus. This was because of the provocative presence of Turkish research vessel ‘Barbaros’ in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.
Eide said he could not talk about Turkey’s intentions or commitments and that the only certainty now is the sailing away of ‘Barbaros’ from Cyprus’ waters.
He also said that there were “enormous benefits” of having a stable solution, predictable rules and institutions for a federal Cyprus that can manage this issue in the long run.
And that the prospects of developing an oil and gas economy in the context of a divided country are negative.
The energy issue was meant to be a game changer but both Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu turned down a compromise proposal the envoy had tabled on how a united Cyprus could manage this wealth.
Eide said he does not have an alternative proposal and argued that hydrocarbons are a crisis of the present – not so much of the future.
“And it is also a strong argument that you should try to see strategically and see the long-term benefits of a solution rather than the short-term problems.”
“One of my most important messages is that the presence of ‘Barbaros’ is just one piece in the puzzle and the puzzle has several pieces and I’m trying to help lay the puzzle for the short-term goal to get back to the negotiating table,” he added.
The long-term goal is for negotiations to go somewhere because there is no purpose in just meeting.
Nonetheless, Eide could not commit to when he will be coming over to Cyprus next but did say that a visit in January is on the cards.
Explaining that he comes over when he can be useful or when there is some development, he stressed that he is involved in discussions on how the two sides can get back to the negotiating table.
“But it is basically up to the two sides to want it and I believe that will be reasonably soon, I can’t say exactly when.”
And he added: “… Not all my work can be done in Cyprus, there are also other players involved, Brussels and New York and Turkey, of course.”
Eide will be in New York on January 26 to report on Cyprus before the UN Security Council and hopes to have some progress to talk about by that time.
And just before that he will be at Davos for the annual economic summit where many world leaders attend.
“I will be there and that will also be an opportunity for a number of bilateral meetings.”