Cyprus remains in spotlight
UK PM heads to Ankara after Washington for talks on effort to reunify island, but Athens is concerned
The issues of security, including the presence of Turkish troops, which form the biggest obstacles to the reunification of ethnically divided Cyprus, are being seen “through new eyes,” according to United Nations Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide, who insisted there is an opportunity for a solution but that it won’t be around indefinitely.
The UN envoy told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council behind closed doors Monday that all sides involved – including guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain – are looking at new ideas to break the deadlock, as Greek Cypriots want Turkish troops out and Turkish Cypriots want them to remain.
However, Athens is said to be feeling somewhat jittery at the prospect of Ankara and London forging closer ties, which, it fears, could come at the expense of Greek positions on Cyprus with regard to post-settlement security arrangements. Reports of a mini-clash between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his British counterpart Boris Johnson at the international conference in Geneva about Cyprus earlier this month have only fueled such concerns.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May is to fly to Ankara on Friday, after her meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington, for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Greece may have not uttered its concerns over the strengthening of ties between Britain and Turkey, but it is reportedly monitoring what seems to be a revival of a strategic partnership.
According to diplomats, there are three factors at play that could influence ties between London and Ankara. Firstly, with Brexit on the horizon, Britain, like Turkey, will have a military presence on the island without being an EU member. Secondly, both countries will be non-EU members of NATO. Given that both have armies ranking among the alliance’s largest, their coordination is expected to be enhanced. Finally, London could model its financial relations on the one already in place between Brussels and Ankara.