THE planting of olive trees in the gardens of Egypt’s presidential palace by President al Sisi, President Anastasiades and Prime Minister Tsipras, during Tuesday’s tripartite summit in Cairo was described by the media as a ‘symbolic’ act. Greece’s PM noted that “these trees symbolise our common commitment and our common aims; they symbolise our journey as well as our destination.”
The olive tree planting was more than a ‘symbolic’ act – it was the only action produced by the four tripartite summits since their commencement some two years ago. At last, something practical had been done by the three leaders, who have spent most of their time talking about big plans and issuing high-sounding declarations, even though it will have no impact.
Anastasiades described the summit as being an “absolute success with regard to the targets sought”, as “very specific benefits had been secured for the three countries including the adoption of the Cairo Declaration.”
What were the targets sought? Anastasiades described them as the “further deepening, consolidation and broadening of the tripartite mechanism, through very specific actions, with the aim of it becoming a model for constructive, regional co-operation for the benefit of the people of the three countries and not only.”
This reinforced the view that the main output of these summits is platitudes and this is because Anastasiades, whose brainchild these alliances were, has constantly tried to over-play their significance. He has done the same in relation to the so-called Cyprus-Greece-Israel alliance, while a tripartite with Jordan has also been mooted. As the details of what had been discussed in Egypt suggested these are not alliances in the traditional sense, but co-operation agreements on a range of subjects.
For instance all three countries expanded their co-operation on maritime transport and development of ports while Cyprus and Egypt yesterday signed an agreement on air links. There were also reports about co-operation on energy, tourism and agriculture without specifics beings given. Building co-operation and good relations with neighbouring countries is a good thing and Anastasiades should be applauded for his initiatives, but he should resist the temptation to overplay the importance of such agreements.
Things must be kept in perspective and the tripartite alliances must be seen for what they are – co-operation agreements and understandings. These are not strategic alliances, with Cyprus at the centre of them as the government has implied. And they will not change the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean as some deluded columnists have argued presenting these alliances as a better alternative to a settlement. This is why the government has an obligation put things in perspective with regard to the tripartite alliances.