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Our View: Water project shows time is not on our side

PRESIDENT Tayyip Erdogan will arrive in the north at lunchtime today to attend the inaugural ceremony for the project that will transport 75 million cubic metres of water every year, through pipelines under the sea, from Turkey to Cyprus. Described as the ‘project of the century’ by Ankara, it has taken four years to complete at a cost in excess of 500 million dollars and appears a great source of pride to Erdogan, who, earlier in the day will attend an inaugural ceremony in Turkey.

Turkish Cypriots do not seem to share Erdogan’s pride and joy over the project, if press reports are anything to go by. Discontent has been voiced regarding the management of the water supply which would be under the Turkish company with expertise in administering build-operate-transfer projects. Cash-strapped municipalities in the north, which wanted to have management of the water supply including the issuing of bills, set up a private company for this purpose. Turkey’s government refused to budge on the matter, even though Mustafa Akinci backed the municipalities’ demand.

According to one paper in the north, even the inaugural ceremony has caused friction as Turkey had taken full charge of giving out invitations. Afrika said Erdogan had invited Akinci while Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu invited the ‘prime minister’ of the north. If this information is correct, it is an embarrassment for Akinci as well as a reminder of who is in charge of the north. The project was of political significance, Erdogan showing Ankara’s designs for Cyprus and the region, said a Greek Cypriot columnist.

This was also the line of the Cyprus foreign ministry which declared the project a breach of international law aimed at making the occupied area a part of Turkey and maximising Turkish influence and control over Cyprus. It also rued the fact that the project was being inaugurated at a critical period in the Cyprus peace talks.

The foreign ministry and the press are very good at spotting the writing on the wall, but they never seem able to understand that the only way to stop the feared incorporation of the north into Turkey is a settlement as soon as possible. This incorporation process has been in motion since the 2004 referendum through investments by big Turkish companies, the establishment of many small businesses by Turkish nationals, the purchase of Greek Cypriot properties, via the Immovable Property Commission by Turkey and now through the transport of water.

In another five to ten years the north will be a province of Turkey, but our political leadership still seems to think there is no big rush to reach a settlement, acting as if time is on our side.

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