On Tuesday, December 9th, 2014, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a roundtable discussion with Ambassador Andreas Mayroyiannis, chief negotiator for the Greek Cypriot community in inter-communal talks aimed at a settlement of the problem of the division of the island. His presentation was entitled “New Prospects for the Eastern Mediterranean and the Cyprus Problem.” GMF Senior Advisor Sir Michael Leigh introduced and moderated the discussion. This event was attended by some 30 diplomatic, government, and think tank representatives.
To begin the discussion, Leigh described the current state of negotiations, the volatility of the region, and the hope that new energy discoveries would facilitate relations among states in the Eastern Mediterranean and not become a new source of tension. Ambassador Mayroyiannis said that the new leadership of the European Union, in particular European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, should bring synergy to the institutions and allow Europe increasingly to speak with one voice. “Thanks to the Republic of Cyprus,” he continued, “Turkish Cypriots are now European citizens; this is fundamental. The Turkish Cypriot community today is even more attached than the Greek Cypriots to the European Union”. This meant that the question of EU membership was off the table in the inter-communal talks.
Ambassador Mavroyiannis continued, pointing out that Cyprus adheres to the United Nations Convention on the Law and the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets out clear rules and a dispute settlement mechanism. Cyprus was entitled under UNCLOS to develop its offshore resources; the issue should not, therefore, be part of the Cyprus settlement talks. These resources, prudently managed, would contribute to regional well-being and stability.
Ambassador Mayroyiannis said that Turkey felt excluded from Eastern Mediterranean energy developments and sought to demonstrate that it could exert influence in the region. He viewed military confrontation or escalation resulting from Turkey’s policy of confrontation over the exclusive economic zone as unlikely. Ambassador Mayroyiannis underlined that a peaceful outcome of the present standoff was of the upmost importance. The conversation also touched on Russia’s announcement of the cancellation of South Stream and the prospects, at some future stage, for a sub-sea pipeline under the Mediterranean bringing gas from Israel and Cyprus to Europe. Concluding a wide-ranging discussion, Ambassador Mavroyiannis indicated that Cyprus’s economy was beginning to recover and expressed hope that circumstances would permit resumption of the settlement talks.