'East Med cooperation not possible without Turkey, Turkish Cyprus'

Cooperation among countries in the Eastern Mediterranean cannot be achieved without the participation of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in response to a recent Mediterranean conference held in Athens.

Releasing a statement in response to the joint statement of the Mediterranean EU countries (MED-7) following the meeting of their ministers in Athens, Ankara said that the statement and decisions taken at the meeting do not bear any value or meaning for Turkey.

“It is not possible for this formation, which advocates the maximalist demands and policies of the Greece-Greek Cyprus duo on the Cyprus issue and the Eastern Mediterranean, to contribute to peace and stability and the development of cooperation in the region,” it said.

“As we mentioned before, a real environment for cooperation cannot be created in the Eastern Mediterranean without Turkey and the TRNC,” it added.

The ministry also highlighted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s proposal for a regional conference on the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiation. Turkey has also criticized the EU’s stance on the Eastern Mediterranean conflict, calling on the bloc to adopt a fair attitude regarding the dispute and give up favoring Greece under the pretext of EU solidarity.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

The Greek prime minister on Friday rejected the possibility of a two-state solution to resolve the Cyprus dispute.

“No EU country will even discuss a two-state solution for Cyprus,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the MED-7 meeting.

On relations with Turkey, he said Greece was “always open to a positive agenda but in a gradual, proportional, and reversible manner.”

The island of Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong struggle between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power. The TRNC was founded in 1983.

The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the EU in 2004, although most Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. settlement plan in a referendum that year, which had envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the EU.