Building Cyprus reunification in a house of cards
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?