NICOSIA was not very happy with reports from Greece, about the possibility of Turkey provoking an incident in the Cypriot EEZ in June. The story, attributed to “military sources” was reported by Greek parliamentary correspondents on Thursday. On this day, Greece’s defence minister, Panos Kamenos, happened to be in parliament and it is entirely possible that he was the source of this story, which drew an immediate denial from the Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides.
Nicosia was in constant contact with the Greek government and “no such information exists nor are such allegations confirmed,” said Christodoulides, who had contacted Kamenos and foreign minister Nikos Kotzias to seek an explanation. There was no immediate denial or correction by Athens, causing further worry in Nicosia which feared such a story could have a negative impact on tourism, expected to hit new records this year, and the drilling programme which is set to commence in June.
Kamenos, a nationalist demagogue, who has thrived on the rising tension between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean in recent weeks, has never been characterised by his sense of responsibility or prudence and could well have been the source of the story. Members of the military never make public such sensitive information, invariably treating it as ‘classified’, but politicians do not operate under the same rules.
Even if the information was deemed, on the surface, reliable, a responsible defence minister would never have made it public and caused public alarm, but would have dealt with it confidentially. In this case, the information should have been conveyed to the Cyprus, government while efforts were made to confirm its veracity. This was probably too much to expect from a demagogue like Kamenos for whom politics is nothing more than empty rhetoric and public shows of bravado.
The peculiar thing is that President Anastasiades often likes to inform the public about the very close co-operation between Nicosia and Athens and that he was in regular contact with the Greek prime minister. This incident makes a mockery of such assurances, indicating how some members of the Greek government have no qualms about causing harm to Cyprus in the pursuit of personal agendas.
In fact, so close is the co-operation between the two governments that Cyprus’ defence minister found out about this information from the press rather than from his Greek counterpart, who must have been briefed in advance by the ‘military sources’ that gave the story to the parliamentary correspondents.