Energy search is best incentive for a solution
Cyprus’ search for oil and gas, widely considered a blessing and a curse, could be a catalyst for enhanced regional stability, “if managed correctly” it should serve as an incentive to reach a settlement, argues Judith Gail Garber, the nominee US Ambassador to Cyprus.
Speaking to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, that needs to be convinced so as to confirm her nomination, Garber said she would work to advance in Cyprus the fundamental US interest in a Europe whole, free, prosperous, and at peace.
She spoke of the commitment to encouraging the leaders of the two communities to forge a just and lasting settlement but stopped short of defending outright the commercial interests of US energy giants ExxonMobil, a prime exploration player in offshore Cyprus, adding that Washington believes these resources should be shared equitably between both communities within the context of an overall settlement.
This has clearly given Turkey the green light to continue taunting Cyprus’ exploration partners in the eastern Mediterranean, with President Erdogan firing yet another salvo this week, saying he would not tolerate any company seeking to bid for the new licenses up for grabs.
The tension comes amid growing fears that the United Nations and its financiers, long fed up of the protracted peacekeeping mission on the island, may consider winding down operations, leaving the Greek Cypriots at the mercy of Ankara’s military might.
Clearly, neither bankrupt Greece nor interestdriven Russia and China would intervene in the case of a conflict, albeit a highly unlikely outcome.
However, Cyprus and its politicians, who remain unconvincing of any intention to resolve the Cyprus problem, need to change course and either dig in their heels for a long regional power struggle, dominated by Turkey, or find a quicker way to persuade the Turks that the Turkish Cypriot minority will benefit, somehow, from future energy revenues, something that all administrations have failed to clearly state.
With the US-Russia standoff getting closer to Cyprus shores, and China setting its sights on strategic ambitions as part of its “One Belt, One Road” policy, islanders on both sides of the divide need to say, once and for all, if they are genuinely in favour of a solution and reunification, no matter what form this solution will take.
As long as there is a lack of trust, Turkey will remain the military bully on the island with little hope of ever enjoying the benefits of oil and gas production.