En­ergy search is best in­cen­tive for a so­lu­tion

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - OPINION -

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.

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