THE MARITIME advisory issued by Ankara – that a Turkish seismic vessel would be carrying out exploratory work in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from October 20 until December 30 – was aimed at unnerving the Cyprus government and it appears to have achieved its objective. In the last two days, the government spokesman and the foreign minister have been making strongly worded public statements, giving the impression that the government is at a loss over what to do.
When our politicians are faced with an awkward, difficult-to-handle issue, they resort to brave rhetoric and threats, under the illusion that this will reassure the public and give the impression that they are in control of the situation. Perhaps they feel obliged to react in this way because this is what the media and the hard-line parties demand. If there were no knee-jerk public reaction, newspaper commentators and opposition politicians would accuse the government of not defending our national interests and sovereignty.
It’s as if the only way to defend the country’s interests is through grandstanding and defiant rhetoric geared for domestic consumption. Such sensitive issues are not resolved by playing to the gallery but through diplomacy and consultations behind closed doors. In this case, the government could have issued a two-sentence statement, expressing dissatisfaction over Turkey’s action, and subsequently engaged in consultations with foreign governments seeking help or advice over how to proceed.
The threat of quitting the negotiations could have been raised with foreign ambassadors and the UN instead of being turned into a public issue. If President Anastasiades goes to Thursday’s scheduled meeting with Dervis Eroglu, without the matter having been resolved, he will leave himself open to unnecessary criticism. Today he will discuss future action with the party leaders at the presidential palace and hopefully this will not be turned into an issue for political exploitation, with the leaders competing over who is seen to take the toughest line.