By Nicos Rolandis
IN MY long career I have been taught that, in difficult moments, those who are small and weak remain and suffer alone, unless some major interests are involved. Irrespective of laws, principles and justice nobody will give a hug to the weak. A hug which will save him, not simply offer consolation.
Greek Cypriots should have been well conversant with this moral. It is part of our life, of our recent history. However it appears that teachings have not reached us. We have close to us a strong and ruthless neighbour, Turkey, which is very important both for the West and for the East. But we never assessed correctly the looming dangers.
In 1974 Turkey invaded, occupied and since then keeps under her occupation 37% of the territory of Cyprus. Unfortunately during the 14 years which preceded the occupation we did not act in such a way that would have averted the fatal act. Some of us could foresee the impending disaster but we were characterised as danger-mongers. Most Cypriots considered Cyprus invulnerable because she was a member of the United Nations, of the Non-Aligned Movement, of the Council of Europe, of the Commonwealth and had also signed in 1972 an Association Agreement with the European Communities.
The leadership of Cyprus believed that eventually the Turkish Cypriots “would end up boiling in their own juice”. Such was our naiveté. At the end of the day when Hellenism, through the coup d’etat, opened up the door for the invasion, nobody helped in real terms. Greece could not. Europe was looking the other way. The Non-Aligned were powerless. Our neighbours shrank into their shells. And the mighty superpowers and the international community offered Iukewarm resolutions and advice. Such resolutions and principles are good, but the fire which scorched the internal body of Cyprus is still there. And nobody has offered to extinguish it.
In 1983 Turkey proceeded with the declaration of an independent “state”. When I resigned from the post of Foreign Minister 50 days before the declaration, I warned that by rejecting the United Nations Plan called “the Indicators” we would conduce to such a declaration. Nobody listened to me. The Plan was rejected. The “state” was declared. We may have secured some resolutions which are helpful. The “state” was not formally recognised. But the bottom line is that the “state” is continuously upgraded. Its officials have high level meetings in many countries and at the European Commission. It has appointed observers in the Council of Europe. It tries to infiltrate into the European Parliament. The Europeans continue harping on the necessity for “direct trade” which is tantamount to indirect recognition of the “state”. The 57 Islamic countries have extended an almost full recognition to the “state”.
From 1978 to 2004 we missed some good opportunities to have the Cyprus problem resolved. Particularly at the beginning, when conditions were more auspicious. During all those years, politics were rife with the same rejectionist tunes (this is the case today as well) that have led to the partition of Cyprus, which today seems inevitable.
In 1998 we tried to install in Cyprus the Russian missile system S300. I was the only one who could foresee that the effort was futile and would not succeed on a number of geopolitical grounds. I was fiercely attacked because I spoke the truth. The missiles never arrived – they were unloaded on the mountains of Crete where they are rusting. And we had to foot the bill of $270 million.
Since 1998 I commenced the oil and gas efforts offshore Cyprus. During this period I was treated with irony and derision. In 1982 we proceeded with the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus. On 17th February 2003 I signed in Cairo with the Foreign Minister of Egypt Ahmed Maher a historic agreement, the first ever signed in the Mediterranean, for the delimitation of the EEZ of Cyprus and Egypt.
In 2002 we had made some preliminary calculations at the Ministry in regard to the possible oil & gas reserves of Cyprus. We relied on the findings of the US Geological Survey, on the Egyptians who were quite knowledgeable about oil and gas in the area and on other experts. They all estimated that the Levant Basin contains 2% of the world reserves of gas and a smaller percentage of oil. About Cyprus the estimate was that she possesses 0.5% of the world reserves of gas and 0.1%-0.2% of the world reserves of oil.
The world reserves of gas are 6.25 quadrillion cubic feet (Oil and Gas Journal). So the 0.5% share of Cyprus, equals 31 trillion cubic feet (tcf) (until today we discovered 4 tcf). The net value of the 31 t.c.f is approximately $150 billion (based on $5 per 1000 cf).
The world reserves of oil are 1.34 trillion barrels (Oil and Gas Journal). So the 0.15% share of Cyprus equals approximately 2 billion barrels. The net value of the 2 billion barrels is $200 billion (based on $100 per barrel).
Grand total of gas ($150 billion) and oil ($200 billion) = $350 billion. If we deduct exploration and drilling costs and the rights of oil companies (perhaps 40% of the total) we end up with a net value of $210 billion for Cyprus. This amount was approximately 15 times the value of the economy of Cyprus (gross domestic product).
I pondered over the matter. How could we ever resolve the Cyprus problem without addressing a subject which is by 15 times larger than the economy of Cyprus? If we left this subject aside in the first place, and after a solution of the Cyprus problem the oil and gas issue was not agreed, would this not overturn everything and cause a total collapse? Would such a course not be extremely precarious?
Besides I knew very well that oil and gas has been the main source of conflict and war in many parts of the world. In many cases the “black gold” is a “curse”. Greece for instance does not proceed with oil and gas in the Aegean Sea in order to stave off a possible clash with Turkey. Would one describe the Greeks as timorous or are they wise?
There has been war and confrontation over oil & gas all over the globe: Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Western Sahara, Namibia, China and Japan, China and Malaysia-Indonesia, Myanmar and India, Malta and Libya, Lebanon and Israel, Canada and France (French islands close to Canada), Iraq, Sudan and South Sudan, Congo, Angola, Bolivia and elsewhere.
In our case the quantity is small by international standards but the value is huge for a very small country. But we have close to us a dangerous neighbour, Turkey, which in the past has been consistent with almost all the threats she has catapulted against us. I do not think that Turkey will step aside. There is a lot at stake. After all this time Turkey has an argument which has been adopted by all states: The rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey ignores our sovereignty and our rights. She does not seem to care at present for her accession process to the European Union either. She knows very well that Barbaros and her warships violate the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, but apparently she does not care. Nobody forced her out of our territory in the wake of the 1974 invasion. Who is going to muscle her out now? She did not pay any price either. On the contrary she was admitted as a candidate-country for accession to Europe, despite the fact that she occupies the territory of a member-state of Europe!
In many articles of mine in the past few years I suggest that we try to work out a solution through negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots so that 1974 will not be repeated. After all, the Turkish Cypriots are entitled to a fair and reasonable share. In my article of the 7th December 2011 I wrote: “Personally I have made my proposal for an agreement with the Turkish Cypriots, in such a way that our sovereignty and rights will not be affected. We should under no circumstances risk the nightmare–scenario of having Turkey pump our oil and gas (who is going to stop her?) or lead us into other adventures.
My good friend Nicos Anastasiades has taken over a presidency loaded only with thorns – there is not a single rose around. He is the most unlucky of all his predecessors in office. He carries on his shoulders:
The occupation of 37% of our land by Turkey, since 1974.
The occupation of our economy by the Troika, since 2012.
The occupation of our seas by Turkey, since 2014.
Nicos is charismatic and very able. I have put forward my stand and have made my suggestions. I wish him wisdom and good luck. He needs both.
Nicos Rolandis is a former commerce minister, foreign minister, MP and president of the Liberal Party