Turkey asked to be new­est mem­ber of East Med en­ergy so­ci­ety

Just Words...

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

Here’s a ques­tion you might want to ask down at the pub quiz on a Sun­day night af­ter the clever clogs have tried to bam­boo­zle you with clas­si­cal his­tory and the names of ex­tinct species.

Well, when I say ques­tion – there is no proper an­swer be­cause the out­come has many vari­ables at­tached as it has to do with Cyprus.

So, do you think we would be nearer to solv­ing the Cyprus prob­lem if there were no off­shore oil and gas riches? Think about it, and no con­fer­ring.

With­out po­ten­tial en­ergy wealth to boost the is­land’s strate­gic po­si­tion to play the re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and sta­bil­ity card, where would Cyprus be?

More sig­nif­i­cantly, is the en­ergy gam­bit dis­tract­ing the gov­ern­ment’s fo­cus on re­sum­ing peace talks and en­ter­ing the end game for a fed­eral so­lu­tion?

Cyprus has put its big boots on to play re­gional deal­maker in the East Med and en­joyed the lime­light as it seeks a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael, Egypt, Greece and, more im­por­tantly, the US.

Okay, Ni­cosia maybe do­ing this through self­p­reser­va­tion, be­liev­ing that if it be­comes friends of the re­gion’s ma­jor play­ers, then the less likely it is to be bul­lied by Turkey and pushed around in the Med.

Of course, Egypt, Is­rael and Greece are not all bud­dy­buddy for the sake of peace, friend­ship and cross-cul­tural tol­er­ance – there is busi­ness to be done.

Work­ing to­gether to ex­ploit East Med oil and gas makes more fi­nan­cial sense than go­ing it alone be­cause there are pipe­lines to be built and deals to be dome with in­ter­na­tional con­glom­er­ates.

There is just one tiny snag – Turkey doesn’t like what’s go­ing on and has claimed most of the sea ter­ri­tory around Cyprus and Greece as part of its own con­ti­nen­tal shelf.

To add some more spice to the ocean waves it has ac­quired its own drill­ship and sent it to ex­plore for hy­dro­car­bons in the sea area be­tween Cyprus and Turkey.

While Ankara has quickly de­cided it wants a share of the black stuff, it has non­cha­lantly is­sued threats left, right and cen­tre against any in­ter­na­tional com­pany that wants to ex­plore and ex­ploit en­ergy wealth off­shore Cyprus.

Aware that it couldn’t go it alone, Cyprus en­sured it at­tracted big com­pa­nies with plenty of clout to tap those re­sources hid­den be­neath the sea.

Turkey had no qualms in mess­ing with the Ital­ians in Fe­bru­ary when ENI tried to do some drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ, but will it be so gung-ho when the Amer­i­cans – in the shape of ExxonMo­bil – come sniff­ing around for gas in the com­ing weeks?

There is a lot of money at stake and the en­ergy/se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of world su­per­power the US and heavy­weight coun­tries like France, Egypt and Is­rael.

Turkey doesn’t al­ways act ra­tio­nally – es­pe­cially when Cyprus is in­volved – so there is no ex­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity it could chuck all its toys out the pram.

Faced with a bel­liger­ent Ankara that likes to throw diplo­matic punches wrapped in glass, Ni­cosia has started to take a dif­fer­ent tact.

At the Econ­o­mist summit, Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades and For­eign Min­is­ter Ni­cos Christodoulides urged Turkey to join the East Med en­ergy ex­plo­ration club but leave its weapons at the door.

In this age of in­clu­siv­ity, Cyprus is of­fer­ing an olive branch to Turkey to be part of the group that has plenty of deals to go around – this is busi­ness, not per­sonal.

It was made clear that Turkey has much more to lose than gain by be­ing a spoiler to re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and un­told riches.

There are just a cou­ple of ob­sta­cles that Turkey needs to nav­i­gate be­fore Cyprus al­lows ex­ec­u­tive sauna and jacuzzi.

Ankara must sin­gle-hand­edly re­solve the is­land’s di­vi­sion, recog­nise the Repub­lic of Cyprus, re­spect in­ter­na­tional law and ba­si­cally be nice to every­one – that in­cludes Greece.

Once it has done all these things, it will be in­vited to come on down and join the en­ergy bo­nanza that is un­fold­ing be­fore us.

In an­other nim­ble piece of diplo­macy, the gov­ern­ment has painted, in flu­o­res­cent marker pen, the mes­sage that any at­tack on Cyprus is also an at­tack on its neigh­bours Is­rael, Egypt and Le­banon as they all have agreed de­lim­i­ta­tion agree­ments with Ni­cosia.

I’m not sure this line of ar­gu­ment will work, as Cyprus is a mem­ber of a much larger club called the Eu­ro­pean Union where this, all-for-one and one-for-all mind­set is en­shrined in the bloc.

But Brus­sels is more like the neigh­bour who prefers to peer through the cur­tains while the boy next door gets a good kick­ing and does noth­ing to stop it.

Cyprus might have con­vinced it­self it is hold­ing all the cards – but none of them are aces.

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