Middle East must solve its own problems, Cypriot minister says

A Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz in the eastern Mediterranean See off Cyprus.
A Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz in the eastern Mediterranean See off Cyprus.PHOTO: REUTERS

NICOSIA, CYPRUS (BLOOMBERG) - The Middle East and its neighbours shouldn't expect outside powers to defuse their conflicts, but should settle their disputes among themselves, Cyprus's Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said on Tuesday (Jan 19) on the eve of Mr Joe Biden's inauguration as US president.

While Cyprus isn't expecting major changes to US foreign policy, the region isn't the same as it was during the Obama administration, Mr Christodoulides said in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, where he was discussing bilateral and regional developments with senior officials.

"We believe that we should have the leading role in our region," he said. "We are not in favour of a neocolonial approach."

Turkey - which is embroiled in multiple disputes with Cyprus - shouldn't be excluded from this effort as long as it respects international law, he added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants to hold a meeting in early February with all interested parties in the Cyprus conflict, including Greece, Turkey and the UK, to look at the prospect of resuming reunification talks, the Foreign Minister said.

The Mediterranean island - less than half the size of New Jersey - was divided in 1974 after Turkey seized control of its northern third following a coup attempt by the military junta then ruling in Athens to unite the island with Greece.

"Cyprus is a very small country and the only way to reunite the island is though a bizonal federation," Mr Christodoulides said. It's also the only solution that a great majority of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots will accept, he added.

A Turkish proposal to transport natural gas to Europe from the eastern Mediterranean via a pipeline from Cyprus to Turkey is only possible if the Cyprus problem is resolved, he said.

Cyprus has signed maritime delineation agreements with Israel, Lebanon and Egypt, and "we're ready to do the same with Turkey", Mr Christodoulides said.

"Turkey can't solve its problems through gunboat diplomacy."