Let’s bury the Cyprus problem: says Erdogan

Turkey wants to make the Cyprus issue a thing of the past, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said after talks with his Greek counterpart Samaras on Tuesday, emphasizing that Turkey and Greece are resolved  to come to an agreement on the decades-old problem through discussion.

I believe that we and Samaras’ administration, which has a strong will for a solution, will take steps and I hope that we will achieve important results for the stability, peace and security of the region,” said Erdogan at a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Istanbul. “We want to overcome difficulties regarding Cyprus and bury that problem in history.” 

Erdogan said his country favoured a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem through “an unprejudiced process” and a fresh initiative by the United Nations.

He added that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are entitled to equal rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and that oil and natural gas reserves around Cyprus should be distributed equally between the two communities.

Greek Prime Minister Samaras, who had talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Erdogan earlier on Monday, said during the conference that the Cyprus problem should be solved and that its settlement in line with UN Security Council resolutions would be to benefit of the region’s stability.

Samaras also added that a fair settlement in Cyprus would also aid progress on Turkey’s membership to the 27-member European Union and improve cooperation and friendship.

Stressing the need for mutual respect for international law and national sovereignty to advance relations, in an apparent reference to Aegean disputes with Turkey, Samaras added that his country and neighbouring Turkey share a deep-rooted history and that the ties have gone through numerous crises and tensions but he said Turkey and Greece now wants to “write a new history of peace and progress.”

Samaras hoped the agreements Turkey and Greece signed on Monday would develop ties and said that efforts are needed to strengthen cooperation for stability in the region. “The golden rule for these efforts to be successful is mutual respect for international law and the protection of national sovereignty,” Samaras added.

Turkey and Greece are in disagreement about the delimitation of the exclusive economic zones due to a dispute over to what extent the Greek islands off the Turkish coast should be taken into consideration while determining the borders.

Turkey argues that distances should be measured from the continental mainland, while Greece claims that all islands must be taken into account on an equal basis.

Samaras said it is important to have good neighbourly relations and that it is always a positive development if the two countries are trying to solve issues of contention.

He declined to comment on the exclusive economic zone Turkey and Greece are said to be preparing to establish, while Erdogan said this subject had been one of the topics in the agenda. The prime minister said they discussed ways to establish the economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean using the win-win principle.

Samaras said Turkish-Greek relations are in a very important turning point and that Athens has always supported Turkey’s vision to join the European Union, which he said will make Turkey a “better neighbour.”

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