The Egyptian, Cypriot and Greek foreign ministers met in the Cypriot capital Nicosia Wednesday to discuss shared interests and issues relating to energy, security, and tourism.
The meeting took place in preparation for a new round of talks in Cairo on 8 November.
A statement released by the Cypriot foreign ministry said that the main focus of the discussion ” is expected to be the role played by the three countries in the preservation of security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest”.
The most controversial issue the talks will address is the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, which began with the 1974 invasion.
“The consequences of the invasion, the military occupation and forcible division of the island, violations of human rights, massive colonization of occupied territory, the seizure of property, the destruction of cultural heritage and ethnic segregation is still continuing,” the Cypriot foreign ministry website states.
Cyprus, a member state of the European Union, has repeatedly complained to EU institutions about the ongoing Turkish presence on the island.
The maritime border around the Mediterranean island has also been a major point of contention between Cyprus and Turkey.
The EU discussed the issue of continued Turkish encroachment into Cypriot waters during a council meeting on 24 October, after Turkish research ship Barbaros entered and remained stationed in Cypriot waters. The ship is backed by a Turkish warship and two other support vessels.
The waters around Cyprus contain several deepwater gas fields, many of which have yet to be explored and tapped. The ENI/KOGAS consortium, which operates a drilling block in the area visited by the Turkish ship, said that its work has not been affected.
“The European Council expressed serious concern about the renewed tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and urged Turkey to show restraint and to respect Cyprus’ sovereignty over its territorial sea and Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone,” an EU statement released after the meeting read. “Under the current circumstances, the European Council considered it more important than ever to ensure a positive climate so that negotiations for a comprehensive Cyprus’ settlement can resume.”
Egyptian and Turkish officials have frequently traded heated words after the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has been accused by the Egyptian foreign ministry most recently of a “series of exaggeration and lies” about Egypt, consistently referring to the 3 July ousting of Morsi as a “coup”.
The Egyptian government fired back, saying that Erdogan is “not in a position to give lessons to others about democracy and respect for human rights and appoint himself the guardian of them”.