Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has suggested that he and his Greek counterpart, Antonis Samaras, should meet for a spot of tea on both sides of Cyprus to find a solution to the divided island’s longstanding problems.
“If Mr. Greek Prime Minister [Samaras] is ready, we can first go to the southern [Greek] side of the island, drink tea together and have a chat. Then we can go to the northern side and again spend time together,” he said during his official visit to Turkish Cyprus after being elected, as visiting Cyprus as a first foreign destination is a tradition for presidents and Turkish prime ministers.
“The Mediterranean Sea has been the common sea for many civilizations,” Davutoğlu said in a joint press meeting with Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu, calling on Samaras to jointly build peace there.
Turkey wanted to sit together with northern Cyprus, southern Cyprus and Greece to discuss how to develop peace in the region but this was not well-received, he said.
The latest talks started on Feb. 11 with a joint declaration by Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, as hydrocarbon discoveries seem like a game-changer that could bring the parties closer to a solution. Still, security, property rights, and power-sharing are still on the table.
Davutoğlu also urged Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis to take action for peace as fast as possible. “I am calling on Mr. Anastasiadis,” he said. “Let’s make peace right now, not tomorrow but today, not next week but this week, not next year but this year. All delayed solutions are deepening the deadlock.”
Turkish Cyprus has reached democratic maturity in its 40-year struggle and 30-year experience as a state, Davutoğlu said.
An ongoing fresh water project is one indicator of Turkey’s support for northern Cyprus, he also said.
The Turkish Cypriot leader was scheduled to meet Anastasiadis for the first time since July 7. Davutoğlu noted that “his precious friend,” former Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, would accompany them as a United Nations representative. “Thus, there lies an opportunity to make a nice start,” he said.
Eide, the new United Nations envoy for Cyprus, said earlier this month that he would unveil new ideas on nudging forward faltering talks aimed at reunifying the ethnically divided island.
Barth said talks had not gone as expected when the island’s rival leaders agreed on a joint declaration in February that inaugurated a fresh round of negotiations.
He said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wanted to see talks make headway so that the decades-old dispute could finally be resolved.
Before Davutoğlu, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also visited the island after being elected on Aug. 10, pledging solidarity.