Cyprus will test Greek-Turkish relations, building bridges to Russia
The Cyprus problem is a key litmus test for Greek-Turkish relations, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in Nicosia on Monday on his first state just eight days after his sweeping election victory.
The charismatic leader of the anti-austerity Syriza leftist party also said that the Greek world needs to regain its international credibility by maintaining strong ties with European partners and, perhaps, contributing to building new bridges between the EU and Russia.
Tsipras rejected the notion of direct aid from Moscow, saying instead that “we are in substantial negotiations with our partners in Europe and our lenders.
We have obligations towards them,” he added in an obvious effort to appease growing concerns among western European economies that Greece may default on its debts and head out of the eurozone, known as a “Grexit”.
But he also voiced a tough stance on eastern neighbour Turkey that is challenging the maritime territory of Cyprus and has set its sights on offshore oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tsipras said that the ventures of the Turkish survey vessel Barbaros within the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone “is a clear violation if international law and undermines the (peace) talks that must resume.”
The Greek Prime Minister said there is a need to resume “a substantial dialogue that will lead to a substantial conclusion, once the problem with the Cyprus Republic’s EEZ is resolved,” adding that the hydrocarbon resources will be to the benefit of all the island’ inhabitants.
Host President Nicos Anastasiades said that the Greece reiterated its commitment to Cyprus and that through “an open and honest dialogue, we emphasized that the strategic aim is the solution of the Cyprus problem the soonest possible, based on fundamental principles.”
Anastasiades added that between Turkey and Greece Cyprus.
Tsipras, too, emphasised the high level of the relations pass through cooperation between the two governments and said that the sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem is a litmus test for GrecoTurkish relations, but also for the troubled region.
“For the new Greek government the effort for a fair solution of the Cyprus issue is a priority and we will support this effort,” Tsipras noted. “I hope the new beginning of the new Greek government will be combined with the need of Hellenism to gain a voice and power to reclaim its rights,” he added.
Looking further north, Tsipras said he discussed with President Anastasiades the need for a coordinated stance for a “bridge of peace and cooperation between Europe and Russia.” He also ruled out his country leaving the euro, saying anyone who believed small euro zone states like Greece and Cyprus were not essential in the bloc would be disproven.
Tsipras repeated previous statements that the unified body of the Troika of international lenders (EU, ECB, IMF) and their inspectors who review the economic adjustment programmes in bailed out countries, needs to be replaced with direct reviews by European bodies, a suggestion that European Commission head Jean Claude Juncker also hinted to over the weekend.
Tsipras, who will head off to meet other EU heads of state throughout this week, as his lieutenants also hold strategic talks with their counterparts in other European capitals, driving home the concept that the austeritydriven bailout programmes have failed and that states should turn to growth-driven strategies that will boost output, employment and household revenues.
He concluded his Cyprus visit with briefings by party leaders and civil society groups, the Archbishop and Cyprus and an address to parliament late on Monday, prior to an official banquet. On Tuesday, he visited the Greek armed forces brigade on the island (ELDYK) and embarked on his next stop on a visit to Italy to meet with Prime Minister Mateo Renzi, a young centre-left leader thought to be among those most sympathetic to calls for leniency on Greek debt repayment.