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Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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