The Mid­dle East cri­sis, Cyprus and Is­rael

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

What is hap­pen­ing in the Mid­dle East, and in par­tic­u­lar in Iraq and Syria, is the re­sult of the ‘Arab Spring’. In its de­vel­op­ment, the ‘Arab Spring’ weak­ened the state and of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to rad­i­cal Is­lamic groups to get or­gan­ised and be­come non-state fac­tors in the Mid­dle-east­ern scene and beyond. This is con­firmed by the ac­tion taken by groups like the Ha­mas, Hezbol­lah, Jub­hat Al-Nousta, Is­lamic Ji­had and es­pe­cially the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS emerged in 2004 in Iraq, fol­low­ing the chaos of in­va­sion and the mis­takes of the Shi­ite lead­er­ship which came to power and op­er­ates in Syria as well since 2013. Its suc­cess is due to its co­he­sive­ness and strong com­mand, as well as the support it en­joys among the Sunni pop­u­la­tion.

Th­ese new re­al­i­ties have brought to the fore new play­ers and in­ter­ests. First and fore­most, Iran has be­come a ma­jor player for many rea­sons. It is con­sid­ered a fac­tor of sta­bil­ity in the wider re­gion if we take into ac­count what is hap­pen­ing in Syria, Iraq, Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. Will­ing to strengthen its Shi­ite al­lies in Iraq against the ji­hadist, Iran has found it­self on the same side with Turkey and the U.S. Although Turkey sided with Iran against ISIS, in the Syr­ian civil war they sup­ported op­po­site sides.

The United States, con­sid­er­ing de­vel­op­ments in Iraq as a great na­tional se­cu­rity threat, even­tu­ally de­cided to take ac­tion with their air force, form­ing an al­liance of forty coun­tries. In this re­spect, pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment should be con­sid­ered the fact that there is now a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity in Bagh­dad and that Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the anti-ISIS bloc. On the other hand, the pos­si­bil­ity of a closer co-op­er­a­tion be­tween U.S. and Iran, as it was left to be un­der­stood by Pres­i­dent Ro­hani and state­ments by For­eign Min­is­ter Kerry, pro­voked the re­ac­tion of Is­rael and the Gulf states, whereas a more re­silient stand on the ques­tion of Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme is op­posed by Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia. Within Iraq, the Kurds emerged as the only power ca­pa­ble of re­sist­ing the ad­vance of ISIS and the fight put up by the Pesh­merga (Kur­dish mili­tias) al­lowed the re­cap­tur­ing of Kur­dish lands taken by Sad­dam Hus­sein be­tween 1960 and the late 80’s.

Com­ing now to Turkey, which shares 900 kilo­me­tres of fron­tiers with Syria and Iraq, the fight­ing in Kobani is cre­at­ing prob­lems and dilem­mas. Hes­i­tat­ing for some days, even­tu­ally after pres­sure from her western al­lies, Ankara de­cided to par­tic­i­pate in the anti-ISIS block un­der con­di­tions (cre­ation of se­cu­rity zone, oust­ing of As­sad, etc.) which were not ac­cepted. Help­ing the Kurds of Kobani and arm­ing them, she is afraid that in the fu­ture they may turn against her. On the other hand, Turkey’s pas­sive stand gen­er­ated the re­volt of the Kurds in Turkey and their demon­stra­tions which left many dead and in­jured.

The Kur­dish prob­lem is a very se­ri­ous prob­lem for Turkey which has to be re­solved, and un­der the present cir­cum­stances she might be obliged to close her bor­ders with Syria.

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the cri­sis in the re­gion, Turkey took the uni­lat­eral ac­tion to send war­ships, where ENI/Ko­gas started ex­ploratory drilling and to state her in­ten­tion to carry out seis­mic stud­ies in Cyprus’s south­ern ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ), thus violating ev­ery norm of in­ter­na­tional law. This ac­tion gives another di­men­sion to the cri­sis which is of in­ter­est to Cyprus and the coun­tries of the east­ern Mediter­ranean. The dis­cov­ery of hy­dro­car­bons in our re­gion drew im­me­di­ately the at­ten­tion of the United States. Tak­ing into ac­count the ex­cel­lent re­la­tions be­tween Cyprus, Is­rael and Greece and the pos­si­bil­ity for Europe not to rely heav­ily on Rus­sian gas, the US recog­nised the sov­er­eign rights of Cyprus in its EEZ and char­ac­terised the Repub­lic of Cyprus as a “strate­gic part­ner”. Th­ese de­vel­op­ments fully jus­tify the decision of Cyprus to po­lit­i­cally invest in Is­rael.

High level vis­its and the sign­ing of a plethora of bi­lat­eral agree­ments which have cre­ated the frame­work for sub­stan­tial co­op­er­a­tion in all fields, and in par­tic­u­lar that of en­ergy, not only strength­ened, but also deep­ened our re­la­tions with Is­rael, the only non-Mus­lim coun­try in the re­gion. How­ever, our ex­cel­lent re­la­tions with Is­rael are not to the detri­ment of our re­la­tions with the other Arab coun­tries.

his is the case with Egypt, Jor­dan, Le­banon and even Saudi Ara­bia, which re­cently de­cided to ac­credit a non-res­i­dent Am­bas­sador to Cyprus.

Con­clud­ing, in­sta­bil­ity in the re­gion un­der­lines the pos­i­tive role Cyprus can play to­wards peace and sta­bil­ity in the trou­bled re­gion of the east­ern Mediter­ranean, safe­guard­ing at the same time the en­ergy se­cu­rity of Europe, which is en­dan­gered by Turkey’s ac­tions.

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