Turkish Cypriot envoy cites Israel factor in promoting reunification
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Turkish Cypriot envoy cites Israel factor in promoting reunification

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The foreign minister of the Turkish section of Cyprus is citing advantages for Israel during talks in Washington to promote the reunification of the island.

Ozdil Nami is in Washington this week meeting with top Obama administration officials and lawmakers as well as with officials from pro-Israel groups.

A key talking point in his presentations has been how reunification would foster cooperation between Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey in cultivating and transporting natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

“There is a scenario whereby the Cyprus issue is resolved and the projects involving exploration of hydrocarbons and using that element as a factor that creates interdependence between Israel, Cyprus, Turkey and the European Union,” he told a small group of reporters who met with him Tuesday at an office representing Turkish Cyprus’ interests in Washington.

Such an outcome would facilitate reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, a key U.S. strategic goal, he said. Turkey and Israel have been at odds since an Israeli commando raid in 2010 on a Turkish-flagged ship headed to the Gaza Strip to break Israel’s embargo resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish nationals.

“Creating interdependence is the best way to create cooperation in the region,” Nami said.

Cyprus’ Turkish north and Greek south renewed reunification talks last month, the latest in a number of bids for reunification since a war in 1974 split the island.

Much of the world recognizes the predominantly Greek half as sovereign, while virtually only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Civilian exchanges between the two sides have improved in recent years, with advances in restitution to war evacuees and in the restoration of neglected churches and mosques.

The Obama administration is invested in the outcome of the talks; in the past, Turkish Cypriot officials have not been able to meet with high-level officials. Nami, however, met with William Burns, the deputy secretary of state, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.