By Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos
COMMON interests and the recognition of the need to address the regional challenges to achieve stability, security and peace in the volatile region of the eastern Mediterranean led to the Tripartite Summit Conference (Egypt-Greece-Cyprus) in Cairo on November 8.
The discovery of hydrocarbon deposits served as an incentive to strengthen regional cooperation. The result was the adoption of the “Cairo Declaration”, a particularly important document epitomising the initiatives undertaken by the three countries in various fields.
The declaration adumbrates the general framework of the tripartite cooperation. According to President Nicos Anastasiades, this cooperation is based on four pillars: first, political cooperation and diplomatic coordination; second, strengthening of sectors such as energy, commerce, tourism and culture; third, the creation of a joint front to address the dangers that threaten the region; and, fourth, the aim of becoming a model of constructive and beneficial regional cooperation.
As is customary, the declaration projects issues of interest to the parties. In particular, for Egypt, apart from the reference to the Palestinian issue, the declaration stresses the determination of the parties to support the effort of the Egyptian people to achieve democracy and prosperity, as well as its struggle against terrorism. Supporting this, President Anastasiades emphasised that “the recent events in our region underline the need for stability in Egypt, because it is a country with great influence in the Arab world that can impact on the efforts to address the regional challenges.”
For Greece, the decision to expedite the negotiations to delineate its EEZ with Cyprus and Egypt strengthens its position on the issue which is vehemently opposed by Turkey. In such a case, Turkey will be excluded from the eastern Mediterranean. Finally, Cyprus is particularly satisfied by the fact that the declaration “stressed the importance to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ and called on Turkey to end all of her on-going exploratory activities within Cyprus’ EEZ and avoid similar activities in the Future.” As a matter of fact, Turkey’s actions annoy not only Cyprus, but also its neighbours. A positive stand on the Cyprus problem was also included in the declaration.
Of particular importance are two issues: EU relations with the Arab world and the hydrocarbons of the eastern Mediterranean. On the first issue, as far as Egypt is concerned, the efforts by Greece and Cyprus to enhance and support contacts between Egypt and the EU were recognised. Greece and Cyprus are to act as Egypt’s ambassadors in the EU, in the belief that closer relations between Egypt and the EU will benefit the region. The parties also believe that the hydrocarbons can be a catalyst for regional cooperation.
Finally, it was stressed that the cooperation among the three countries is not directed against any other country and that states sharing the vision of a peaceful, stable and prosperous eastern Mediterranean are most welcome to participate.
As was expected, Turkey reacted negatively to the declaration which might hinder Turkey’s plans to become the regional super power. However, the dilemma exists whether it is in Turkey’s interest to undermine this regional cooperation. Things will certainly be worse for Turkey if a tripartite cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, which is in the offing, eventually materialises.
Cyprus, either bilaterally or multilaterally, is playing a stabilising role in the eastern Mediterranean, and in view of the developments mentioned above we believe that it is not premature to suggest the creation of an “Eastern Mediterranean Cooperation Council”.
The framework created by the “Cairo Declaration” and the prevailing conditions in our region favour such a council, which we trust is in natum nascendi.
Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos is a former ambassador of the Cyprus Republic