Build­ing Cyprus re­uni­fi­ca­tion in a house of cards

Just Words...

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

Is it at all pos­si­ble the govern­ment re­duced the tax on petrol at the pumps to make us for­get that the Cyprus prob­lem has been off the road since the Crans-Mon­tana train crash of July 2017?

Maybe not, but the govern­ment knows that ro­bust eco­nomic growth is a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to un­re­solved is­sues like the is­land’s decades-long divi­sion.

While the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has mired it­self in the de­tail of the cur­rent non-process by comb­ing over the points of ref­er­ence, the lack of an exit strat­egy from the dead­lock is alarm­ing.

To its credit, the govern­ment will say it is sim­ply pre­par­ing the ground to en­sure that any new peace process is not doomed to fail, so ev­ery­one should know ex­actly what they’re get­ting into.

As one of the world’s most in­tractable prob­lems, it is no won­der that after 44 years of in­va­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion we are still at ground zero hav­ing talks about talks.

It is plainly ob­vi­ous that no­body is go­ing to stick their neck out for Cyprus, the UN has played this game be­fore and got burnt, it is in no hurry to nav­i­gate a com­plex labyrinth of se­man­tics, in­nu­endo, half-truths and fab­ri­cated sin­cer­ity.

Ev­ery­one in­volved in the pol­i­tics of divi­sion/re­uni­fi­ca­tion knows the rules are not only about removing ob­sta­cles but also cre­at­ing them to impress a do­mes­tic au­di­ence that de­fi­ant pa­tri­o­tism is not dead – Cypri­ots can usu­ally talk a good fight, but hide be­hind ex­cuses for lack­ing the courage of their con­vic­tions.

Granted, Turkey is a bel­liger­ent and un­pre­dictable ad­ver­sary in the re­gion, but has the Greek Cypriot side al­ways played its best hand in try­ing to out­wit its op­po­nent?

In a change of tact, Cyprus has de­cided to en­gage in a dif­fer­ent kind of diplo­macy where it is seek­ing re­gional al­liances based on its un­tapped en­ergy wealth to give it an ex­tra layer of se­cu­rity.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that Cyprus has strength­ened its ties with Is­rael and Egypt, in­ter­twin­ing its de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity with closer bi­lat­eral ties.

Ni­cosia has moved closer to France which has a keen in­ter­est in the East Med while play­ing the en­ergy se­cu­rity card in Washington to en­sure Europe isn’t de­pen­dent on Rus­sian gas.

Of course, such a bal­anc­ing act has con­se­quences, the Rus­sian bear has growled a few times while sharp­en­ing its paws at any sug­ges­tion that Cyprus would fa­cil­i­tate an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence on the is­land.

Ni­cosia ar­gues it has no in­ten­tion in do­ing so while its over­tures to Washington have been warmly re­ceived with a pos­si­bil­ity of US arms be­ing sold to Cyprus.

Turkey has also pro­duced its best fire­work dis­play of noisy threats and sparkling ul­ti­ma­tums over Cyprus hav­ing the temer­ity to ex­ploit its own nat­u­ral re­sources.

When not laying claim to large swathes of the is­land’s Ex­clu­sive Eco­nomic Zone, it wants a solution to come first for Turk­ish Cypri­ots to share the en­ergy riches.

The govern­ment has clearly stated that Cyprus’ nat­u­ral re­sources are for the ben­e­fit of all Cypri­ots, but oc­cu­pa­tion should not be an im­ped­i­ment from ex­er­cis­ing its sov­er­eign right.

Nev­er­the­less, will the smell of petrol dol­lars bring both sides closer to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table to reap the re­wards or could it cre­ate more ten­sion, re­sent­ment and bick­er­ing?

This is one of the questions that 2019 may an­swer for us as the chat­ter of pipelines, drills and ex­ploita­tion in­ten­si­fies.

With France, Italy, the USA, Is­rael and Egypt all in­volved in the is­land’s en­ergy strat­egy, Cyprus be­lieves this to be a solid con­crete buf­fer to what­ever Turkey will throw at it.

But where does this leave UN-spon­sored Cyprus peace talks when there is no magic rab­bit and no hat to pull it out of.

The New Year will most likely be­gin with the UN en­voy touch­ing down on Cyprus once again to gather more notes on the mus­ings of our lead­ers, most of it is stuff that has been said be­fore but repack­aged to sound fresher than Christ­mas din­ner left­overs.

Ni­cos and Mustafa may even get to pass go with a trip to New York to see the Won­der­ful Wiz­ard of Oz, but this rein­ven­tion of shut­tle diplo­macy feels like the morn­ing after the of­fice New Year’s Eve party.

You know where ev­ery­body tried hard to for­get an­other crappy year, al­though once the headache clears there are sober apolo­gies to make (you know why), a mess to clean up, bills to pay and set the alarm for work. Same old, same old.

When the sun shines on the brave new world of 2019, move­ment on the Cyprus prob­lem will seem like Ground­hog Day with the pro­tag­o­nists all swear­ing al­le­giance to the end game of re­uni­fi­ca­tion but find­ing more in­ven­tive ways to avoid such an out­come.

If peace is firmly built in a cli­mate of com­pro­mise, trust, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and com­pas­sion, what chance has the House of Cyprus re­uni­fi­ca­tion got…

Any­thing to an­nounce in 2019?

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