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After the Russian move towards Turkey and the revitalisation of the Greek-Turkish relations, a unique opportunity is emerging for the Cyprus issue to be revisited. Political pressure from the West led Russia to a strategic move towards a large NATO country. By doing so, Russia aims to firmly entangle Turkey with Russian economic interests and convert Turkey to an alternative natural gas gate-keeper for Europe. This is a milestone move with benefits for both countries.
In the midst of an economic crisis, Greece established the Council of Strategic Collaboration with Turkey aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two countries. This is, again, a bold move that needs to be evaluated with rationale by all Cypriots.
Recently, Israel, a country with an enviable economy and surrounded by opponents, decided to reserve some of its gas for both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority in return for more prosperity and peace. When Israeli energy begins to flow into Arab homes then the resolution of the Palestinian issue will be more feasible.
Russia, Greece and Israel mobilise economic synergies with potential enemies for their common good. Cyprus should do the same with Turkey through a foresighted gas monetisation strategy. Wealth generated from the sale of Cypriot gas is not a sufficiently powerful motive for a solution.
Turkey is unpredictable in many ways but one. It is using a multifaceted foreign policy to strengthen its economy and it is succeeding. It grasped a unique opportunity of becoming an energy gate-keeper for the supply of gas originating from Russia, Iran and Kurdistan.
The Cyprus issue, however, stands in the way for Turkey to gain access to gas supplied from the eastern Mediterranean. By opting for tighter economic links with Russia, Turkey has essentially chosen only a special relationship status and not full membership with the EU as full membership limits her freedom for strategic political maneuvering. The Cyprus issue also stands in the way of even a special relationship deal with the EU.
In the light of recent developments, the export of Cypriot gas after a solution though Turkey, is the right choice for Cyprus. The Russian move towards Turkey highly facilitates such a move. Through a joint Cypriot-Israeli deal, the interests of Turkey should be taken on board. Such a move will augment the diplomatic standing of Cyprus and amplify the political and economic benefit. Cyprus should facilitate, not hinder, the accession process of Turkey, even if a special relationship status for Turkey is at stake.
Such moves add weight to the sovereignty and stature of the Cypriot state. An esoteric approach is neither in the interest of either a viable solution nor of the future economic planning for recovery of the island’s economy. Political and diplomatic orphanage on the energy planning is not a choice for Cyprus. Developments will move fast and will leave Cypriots behind.
Through a stalemate, Cypriots will pay the price of a nonsolution (and probably non-monetisation of gas), while Turkey will continue to capitalise both economically and politically.
On the contrary, a proactive and constructive diplomacy, though a visionary energy strategy, will prove to be beneficial both politically (viable solution) and economically (faster economic recovery). Such a move by Cyprus will put pressure on Turkey whose immediate goal is to cause tension in order to hinder the monetisation of Cypriot gas.
Given the history of the region, the existence of suspicion and in some cases the preponderance of extreme nationalists views in all states, natural energy resources may not prove conducive to a settlement but may bring exactly the opposite result unless a preemptive and more conciliatory strategy is adopted.
Greece, Russia and Israel have followed an energy strategy that serves their long-term interests and is based on logic rather than sentiments.