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Tehran-Riyadh rapprochement may be the key in Arash/Durra



Tehran has called for negotiations over the disputed gas field between Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. A Riyadh-Tehran rapprochement could help bring the parties to a settlement in the gas field, which has not been shared since the 1960s.

After Iran announced it would drill in the Arash/Durra gas field in the Persian Gulf, Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia claimed that the field belonged to them.

The controversy started when Mohsen Khojestemehr, Managing Director of the National Iranian Oil Company, announced that “preparations to start drilling in the oil field have been completed.” “The board of directors of the National Oil Company has been allocated a significant amount of resources to implement the development plan for this field,” Khojestemehr said, according to Iranian state media.

Following Iran’s announcement, an anonymous Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry official said that the Arash/Durra Gas Field in the Persian Gulf and its natural wealth, the subject of the dispute with Iran, belongs entirely to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The official called on Iran to sit down with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and start negotiations to define the maritime border between the two countries.

A day later, a similar call came from Saudi Arabia. Riyadh argued that the entire Durra field belongs to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and urged Iran to “sit down at the table”.

The Arash/Durra Gas Field in the Persian Gulf, discovered in 1967, has been causing problems between Iran and Kuwait for years. The Iranian side of the gas field is called Arash, while the Kuwaiti side is known as Durra.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait signed an agreement in March 2022 to develop the Durra Gas Field. Iran, on the other hand, argued that the agreement was “illegal” and announced that it would start drilling in the region.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had previously called on Iran to negotiate on this issue, but there was no response from Tehran.

Robin Mills, CEO of Dubai-based Qamar Energy, told The National, “The Saudi-Iran restoration of diplomatic relations included talk of developing joint oil fields. Kuwait has held negotiations with Iran on the border but maintains its position that Al Durra belongs entirely to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia”.

Nora Bakhsh, a researcher on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, said that the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia was looking positive so far, but these negotiations are still in the beginning stages and Tehran’s claims to Al Durra could pose additional challenges to them.


Germany pushes for ‘positive’ message to Turkey at EU summit



Germany has stepped up pressure in recent days for a ‘positive’ message on the future of EU-Turkey relations to be included in the final declaration of the EU summit, Euractiv has learned.

Two EU diplomats confirmed to Euractiv that Berlin is pushing for the inclusion of a paragraph in the final text of the EU summit conclusions urging the European Commission to continue monitoring the development of EU-Turkey relations.

After months of escalating relations between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell prepared a report on the state of play of EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations in early 2023.

Although the first report was completed in November 2023, it could not be discussed due to the busy agenda of EU leaders at the last three summits.

However, according to Euractiv, Cyprus wanted a “proper” discussion at this summit before sending a “positive” message, as suggested by Germany.

An EU diplomat told Euractiv that European Council President Charles Michel was not keen to discuss the issue because of the heavy agenda.

Relations with Athens, migration and satisfaction with sanctions against Russia

According to Euractiv, the European Commission would like to see a reference to a possible EU-Turkey discussion between EU leaders in the final declaration and, at best, a reference to Borrell’s November report.

According to EU officials, positive steps have been taken in recent months, with improved relations with Greece (especially on migration) and special measures taken against Russian sanctions-busting.

However, there are still ‘some concerns’ about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s description of Hamas as a ‘liberation group fighting to preserve Palestinian land’ rather than a ‘terrorist organisation’.

Cyprus issue stands out as main obstacle

According to Euractiv, there are also some concerns about Ankara’s stance on Cyprus. Sources in Athens stress that Greece could accept a paragraph calling on the Commission to continue the EU-Turkey situation reports.

However, the same sources said that this paragraph should include the following statement from the previous EUCO conclusions “The European Council reiterates the EU’s readiness to engage with Turkey in a gradual, proportionate and reversible way to enhance cooperation in various areas of common interest”.

In addition, the Greek Cypriot side asked for the inclusion of a sentence clarifying that the European Council should have the “last word” on any political decision concerning Turkey.

Cyprus asked for the inclusion of an EU representative on the Cyprus problem, but not all member states agree, Euractiv reported.

Finally, Cyprus asked for the inclusion of the EU’s line on the Cyprus problem, i.e. a bi-communal, bi-national federal solution, in opposition to Turkey’s efforts for a two-state solution.

Athens and Nicosia react to Erdoğan’s comments

Tensions have eased in recent months as Greece and Turkey have engaged in dialogue to improve bilateral relations.

But earlier this week Erdogan provoked the ire of Athens and Nicosia when he said: “Maybe even if we were burdened with the south, I say this as a son of today, there would be no more south-north, there would be no more south-north, Cyprus would be completely ours.”

Cyprus said the statement was “unacceptable”. In Greece, a source in the Greek Foreign Ministry argued that Erdogan’s “statements on the illegal occupation of Cyprus in 1974 constitute a blatant distortion of historical facts and an insult to the memory of the victims”.

The source pointed out that these remarks were made at a time when efforts are underway to resume negotiations under the auspices of the UN, within the framework of UN Security Council resolutions, for the settlement of the Cyprus problem.

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Dibeybe and Haftar agree on “Government of Reconciliation”



Libya’s Government of National Unity (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the armed forces in the east of the country, have reportedly reached a consensus on the formation of a new “Government of Reconciliation”. This agreement was reflected in the meeting of the “6+6” committee formed to prepare the legal framework for the elections in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. The committee agreed on the formation of a joint government to manage the election process.

Cairo-based negotiations between Tripoli and Benghazi have been taking place for a long time. The most important item on the agenda of these talks is to determine the laws that will lead the country to elections. The most important disagreement in this context is the relevant articles that will determine whether Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the armed forces in the east of the country, will be a candidate. It is claimed that a consensus has been reached in the talks deadlocked because the government in Tripoli opposed Haftar’s candidacy. The deal is based on the formation of a joint government that will lead the country to elections. Accordingly, a source close to the Libyan government told AA, “During the negotiations between the delegations of the two sides in the Egyptian capital Cairo, an agreement was reached that the prime minister should be from the west of the country and his deputy from the east.” According to the source, who requested anonymity, according to the agreement between the two sides, GNU Premier Dibeybe will continue to serve as prime minister in the new government in exchange for Haftar’s renunciation of the pressure he exerted to prevent him from participating in the presidential elections. In other words, Dibeybe will not object to the electoral law’s exclusion of articles preventing “dual citizens and soldiers” from running for the presidency, paving the way for Haftar’s presidential candidacy.

The consensus in the informal Cairo-based negotiations was reflected in the talks in Rabat of the UN-supervised “6+6” committee to prepare the legal framework for the elections. According to a Libya Observer briefing last night, the meeting agreed on the rules for the election of the President and members of the National Assembly. Accordingly, they agreed to form a unified government to run the election process.

Consisting of 6 members each from the Libyan Supreme Council of State and the House of Representatives, the Committee for the Electoral Laws started its meetings in Rabat on Monday, May 22, to draft the laws for the elections planned to be held this year.

An anonymous Libyan member of the Committee told AA that logistical issues were discussed during the meeting with the UN Special Envoy to Libya and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) election official. The member said that issues such as the individual electoral system and electoral lists were discussed during the talks, adding that closed and open lists, the majority system, the seats to be allocated to women and internal migration issues were also discussed in the meeting. The Libyan official noted that the 6+6 committee discussed these issues both among themselves and with the UN official.

The “Constitutional Declaration”, announced after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya (1969-2011), is considered the provisional constitution in the country. The Committee for the Electoral Laws, consisting of 6 members each from the Libyan Supreme State Council and the House of Representatives, is planned to amend Article 13 of the Constitutional Declaration, regarded as the constitutional basis for the elections in the country.

Haftar eliminated Bashagha

On the other hand, it was claimed that Fathi Basaga was suspended from his post since he rejected the reconciliation between Dibeybe and Haftar.

The source who spoke to AA said that Bashagha did not want to take a lower-level post in the new government, “Bashagha refused to be Dibeybe’s deputy. For this reason, Haftar put pressure on the House of Representatives to remove Bashagha.”

In his resignation letter addressed to the Presidency of the House of Representatives in Tobruk on May 16, Bashagha said, “I express that Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Ali Faraj al-Katrani was assigned with all our duties and authorities.” On the same day, in a session held in the House of Representatives in Tobruk, an investigation was launched against Fathi Bashaga, who was elected Prime Minister for the east of the country in February 2022.

Abdullah Bliheg, the House spokesperson, stated in a written statement that “the Parliament voted by majority for the dismissal of Libyan Premier Fathi Bashagha and the opening of an investigation against him on charges of damaging public property” and stated that Osama Hammad, Minister of Finance and Planning, was appointed as acting Prime Minister for the seat vacated by Bashagha.

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Recognition diplomacy for TRNC begins with Turkic states



Having struggled for recognition as an independent state for 39 years, the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) has crossed a significant threshold by becoming an observer member of the OTS (Organization of the Turkic States). “It is of great importance that a strong coalition is formed by intensive cooperation with the Turkic World and that the policy toward the recognition of the TRNC is actively put into practice,” says Prof. Hüseyin Işıksal.

Following the 2017 breakdown of the Crans Montana negotiations, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has existed as an independent state despite all embargoes for 39 years, has based its policy on sovereign equality and equal international status. The TRNC’s unnamed recognition policy since 2017 was concretized by the address of President Tayyip Erdoğan to the UN Security Council (UN). With the TRNC’s admittance as an observer member of the OTS, a significant milestone was reached in the struggle being carried out in this context. Then, critical steps were taken. Following Gambia Vice President Badara Joof’s visit to the island to meet with TRNC President Ersin Tatar, a joint meeting between the ruling parties of Turkiye, Azerbaijan, and TRNC was held in Cyprus. Even though there is still a long way before Cyprus to go to be recognized as an independent state, patient and determined struggle is not alien to the Turkish Cypriots.

At a press conference on 19 December titled “Three States One Nation”, AK Party Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş (right), New Azerbaijan Party Deputy Chairman Tahir Budagov (left) and TRNC National Unity Party Secretary General Oğuzhan Hasipoğlu. PHOTO: Ali Ruhluel/AA

‘Doing the same thing and expecting different results is pointless’

International Relations and Diplomacy Special Advisor to the President of the TRNC, and Member of the Negotiation Committee, Prof. Hüseyin Işıksal talks to Harici about the roadmap to be followed by the TRNC in the diplomacy of recognition as well as the role that this new strategy will play in the ongoing conflict over the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • Do the efforts to be recognized as an independent state indicate that a new UN negotiation process based on the “one state” model of Turkiye and the TRNC is off the table? Or will the new recognition initiative be carried out in tandem with the UN negotiation process?

In the presidential candidacy declaration titled “A New Era, A New Vision” in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus elections held in October 2020, Ersin Tatar stated that any viable solution for Cyprus should be predicated on the presence of two sovereign and equal states. He appealed for the Turkish Cypriot people’s support, saying that a solution based on federation was exhausted at the time. By freely voting for Mr. Tatar as President, the Turkish Cypriot people have indicated their support for this vision-based approach.

The facts on the ground in Cyprus demonstrate that the Turkish and Greek people, who share a troubled history with power asymmetry and have different races, languages, religions, cultures, and lifestyles, would not be able to coexist peacefully under a federal solution. This reveals that a federal solution would be short-lived even if this is attempted through the use of a coerced treaty. In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ The insistence on a federal solution by the Greek Cypriot side will waste time and perpetuate the status quo, which harms all parties. It is now apparent which model cannot be applied in Cyprus.

In this context, the negotiation committee headed by TRNC President Ersin Tatar, of which I am a part, presented new solution proposals to the United Nations at the 5+UN informal negotiations held in Geneva on 27-29 April 2021. Accordingly, the committee proposed that a fair, realistic, and sustainable agreement honoring the Turkish Cypriot people’s long-devoted struggle for existence and statehood can only be reached by a collaboration of two states with sovereign equity and equal international status. The Turkish Cypriot side has always stated that formal negotiations can only begin on condition that the Turkish Cypriot people’s vested sovereign equity and equal international status have been confirmed. As things stand, compromising our statehood in no way will we confidently continue along this path open to reconciliation and cooperation.

‘No letup in the pace of struggle’

  • The TRNC has taken a significant step forward with its admittance to the OTS as an observer member. How will the following step be carried out? Is there a roadmap for this new recognition diplomacy?

President Tayyip Erdoğan’s historic call at the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations address to all world leaders for the formal recognition of the TRNC is crucial. It marks a new landmark in the history of the Turkish Cypriot people. By making this call, Mr. Erdogan has done more than merely protect the Turkish Cypriots and their legitimate independence; he has also become their voice at the United Nations, where they are not allowed to be represented.

Soon after this call, at the 9th Organization of the Turkic States Leaders’ Summit held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, our state was unanimously admitted as an observer member for the first time under its constitutional name, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is a historical step toward international recognition. From this moment forward, we will no longer be subjected to procedures that would keep us in the status of minority.

Compared to many globally recognized states, fulfilling all the conditions of statehood with its full-fledged institutions and organizations, the TRNC is much more socio-economically and politically advanced. The TRNC is slowly yet gradually gaining acceptance from the international community. These days when we celebrate the 39th anniversary of our Republic, we will not rest on our laurels and continue our noble struggle with the tremendous momentum that this positive development encourages. It is of great importance to form a solid cooperation under the leadership of Turkiye with the Turkic world sharing the same values with the TRNC and to vigorously implement the policy for the recognition of the TRNC. The decision of the Organization of Turkic States to admit the TRNC as an observer member will also help to eliminate the unfair imbalance of status in Cyprus and ensure a just reconciliation based on sovereign equality on the island.

‘Geopolitical equation may shift in the Eastern Mediterranean’

  • Is the current polarization in the Eastern Mediterranean to be affected by Turkiye’s “normalization” measures towards Egypt? How do you see the situation developing in that part of the world?

If Turkiye’s “normalization” efforts toward Egypt pan out, we can expect the geopolitical equation in the Eastern Mediterranean to shift dramatically. Recently discovered hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean have opened up new possibilities for regional collaboration. However, the maximalist demands and ambitions of the Cypriot Greek and Greek sides have had a disastrous economic impact on other coastal European and Mediterranean states. Should the maritime zone issues in the Eastern Mediterranean be settled fairly, the region will face even more significant political challenges. Such a great upheaval will benefit no party.

The main challenge here is that Turkiye, which has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean and is barely 70 km away from the island of Cyprus, is being attempted to be left out of the political equation in the region. Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration’s (GCA) primary foreign policy move is to immediately appeal to and forge an alliance with a country whenever it has a problem, no matter how negligible, with Turkiye. Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration mainly intend to confine Turkiye to the Gulf of Antalya by reducing Turkiye’s Exclusive Economic Zone by 3.5 times with the so-called Sevilla map they have created. All regional states, particularly Israel and Egypt, will benefit significantly if they sign maritime authorization agreements with Turkiye. I believe that the ‘containment’ strategy of the Greek-Cypriot Greek duo will fail, and the geopolitical equation in the Eastern Mediterranean may entirely change with the new strategic relations Turkiye has established with the regional countries.

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