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Our View: A Cyprus settlement can no longer be viewed in isolation

ALTHOUGH he did not spell it out, President Anastasiades’ inference, in his article published in Sunday’s Politis, was quite clear – for the exploitation of our natural gas deposits a settlement of the Cyprus problem was a necessity. Only a modicum of common sense and pragmatism, which are very rarely embraced by our political elite, are required to arrive at this conclusion. Our politicians are more concerned with taking theoretical stands on principle than dealing with reality.

Co-operation in the exploitation of the Eastern Mediterranean’s natural gas deposits by the region’s countries “constitutes the necessary unifying and developmental element for the countries and people of the area,” wrote Anastasiades adding: “We extend an invitation to all the countries of the area to share in the benefits from the exploitation of natural gas.” The invitation was also “addressed to Turkey” and “we look forward to a positive response”, the pre-condition being “the solution of the Cyprus problem.” In order to “develop our vision for peace and stability fully, we must be rid ourselves of the Turkish occupation.”

Anastasiades felt this vision for the area went beyond the production and supply of natural gas and were perfectly aligned to the needs and policies being shaped in the EU. “We give specific content to the operation of our country as a bridge between the Middle East and Europe,” an initiative, welcomed by the foreign ministers that recently visited the island. What the president wrote has been evident for some time now – a Cyprus settlement would open the way to regional co-operation which is the plan of the US and the EU for the eastern Mediterranean. This is why both are pressing for settlement this year.

The normalisation of relations between Turkey and Israel are also linked to the energy plans for the region. Israel decided some time ago that the only market for its natural gas was Turkey, which has been looking to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. There are other reasons for the two countries restoring relations and President Erdogan did not mince his words at the weekend, speaking to journalists. “Israel needs a country like Turkey in the region. We need to accept that we also need Israel. This is a reality in the region.”

It is no coincidence that Prime Minister Netanyahu, expected in Cyprus later this month for the tripartite summit, is a keen supporter of a settlement. He knows that it would open the way for the sale of natural gas to Turkey via pipeline that would pass through Cyprus. Anastasiades is fully aware of these plans and the benefits they would bring the island. He also knows that a Cyprus settlement can no longer be viewed in isolation, but as an essential part of the broader energy plans for the Eastern Mediterranean, involving many countries.

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