Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Playing cat and mouse with gas

By Hermes Solomon

“Je vous ai compris” (I have understood you) was a key phrase used by French President, Charles de Gaulle in a speech broadcast to calm a rowdy crowd amassed in la Place du Forum, Algiers on June 4, 1958.

At that moment the different groups, les Pieds Noirs (French Algerians), Muslims and Jews took the statement as meant for them – keeping l’Algérie française a de Gaulle promise. But when, four years later, self-determination was the outcome of the French/Algerian war, les Pied Noirs felt betrayed and reworded de Gaulle’s phrase as “Je vous hais, compris?” (I hate you – understand?). But although France gave up Algeria, she kept, through Total Gas & Oil, a firm hold on Algerian fossil fuels.

Archbishop Makarios, in a statement reported in the Greek Cypriot press (July 28, 1960) is quoted as having said, “The (Zurich and London) Agreements do not form the goal; they are the present and not the future… The Agreements have a number of positive elements but also negative ones and the Greeks (Greek Cypriots) will work to take advantage of the positive elements and get rid of the negative ones.” Did ‘and get rid of the negative ones’ mean the Turkish Cypriots?

In a public speech at Larnaca (May 19, 1965) he said, “No power is able to close the Cyprus Question. We shall keep it open … until we close it through our union with Greece, a genuine Enosis without bartering …” That statement permanently alienated Turkish Cypriots.

A unanimous resolution of the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives (June 26, 1967) stated, “Interpreting the age-long aspirations of the Greeks of Cyprus, the House declares that despite any adverse circumstances it will not suspend the struggle conducted with the support of all Greeks, until this struggle succeeds in uniting the whole and undivided

Cyprus with the Motherland, without any intermediate stages.” Little did they know that 200,000 Greek Cypriots and 80,000 Turkish Cypriots would lose their homes by 1974?

At the celebration of United Nations Day in Limassol (October 23, 1967) Tassos Papadopoulos said, “Freedom for us means only the integration of this southern outpost of Hellenism into the national entity …” He tearfully hinted the same during his address to Greek Cypriots just ahead of them voting a resounding ‘Ochi’ in the 2004 Annan Referendum.

In an interview given to the Daily Express, London (April 4, 1973) Archbishop Makarios said, “Union of Cyprus with Greece has always been the national aspiration of the Greek Cypriots… Various factors, however, and mainly the opposition of Turkey do not make Enosis attainable.” He had finally accepted the blindingly obvious.

Turkey, and by definition, the Turkish Cypriots, will never again bow to the wishes of the south, having declared the north an independent state, giving Turkish names to all towns and villages, inscribing two highly visible flags into the mountainside, building more mosques and casinos/brothels than there are supermarkets, maintaining rigid borders and passport control, selling pharmaceuticals and tobacco at half the price of the south, offering more university places to foreign students than we do in the south, flying much cheaper from Ercan (Tymbou) to Istanbul than we fly from

Larnaca to Athens, and perpetually inciting the south to attend talks. The latest EEZ provocations are a constant reminder that we are the mouse and they the cat.

I think we all know that Turkey wants to keep a part of Cyprus. But the republic refuses to negotiate away any part of the island and accept political equality with just 18 per cent of the population – Muslim, Turkish speaking Turkish Cypriots,

Turkey loving and estranged from Greek Cypriot this past forty years.

The republic’s bankrupt economy is now in the hands of the troika as the TRNC’s is in the hands of Turkey. The south has fossil fuel wealth. The north (Turkey) does not trust the south to share this wealth equitably – double standards – does

Turkey want 18 per cent of the island or 37 per cent? Does Turkey want more than the Turkish Cypriot fair share of fossil fuels or all of it?

For what it’s worth, the south has the backing of Greece, the EU and, we are led to believe, the United States. But fossil fuel wealth has seeded seemingly senseless strife throughout the Middle East and much of Africa.

We’ve already lost control of our banks – will fossil fuels be next?

We are the mouse and the United States the Lion. We’d better hurry up and negotiate an end to the Cyprob as instructed by the UN, Britain and the US or face losing what few benefits we might have had from fossil fuels. And if we fail to do so, the island will be partitioned indefinitely, borders will be closed and fossil fuels will either remain under the seabed or be ‘stolen’ by multi-nationals, who owe their allegiance to foreign governments and shareholders, and not to Cyprus.

After years of flying either the Greek or Turkish flag, we are no longer in a position to take advantage of the positive elements and get rid of the negative ones. We must sit around the table until the Cyprob is ‘settled’ and stop pretending we are anything more than a tiny mouse in the overall scheme of things.

Have we, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, still not understood the blindingly obvious, which is that we have allowed ourselves to be exploited in favour of others before, and ever since, the island gained its independence? Better a tenth of something than nothing at all…

I believe there is unimaginable wealth lying beneath Cyprus’ EEZ and all participants are ‘wetting themselves’ to get their hands on it! But nobody (Noble Energy) will extract anything until a Cyprob settlement is signed, sealed and delivered.

And if we don’t understand that simple fact, we are hopelessly lost.

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