Cyprus Mail
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Our View: Our politicians are blinkered to the wider realities

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IN CYPRUS politicians are usually too engaged, playing to the domestic gallery, to notice what is happening in the big world beyond the shores of our tiny country. As they are unable to influence what is happening abroad they take no interest in it, which has often cost Cyprus dearly because we do not live in a vacuum, as our politicians seem to think, blanking out the outside world

On Monday for instance, President Putin, who had gone to Istanbul to attend the World Energy Forum, met President Erdogan and they agreed to revive the natural gas pipeline project known as the Turkish Stream, which had been on hold. The Turkish Stream would run under the Black Sea to Turkey and via the Greek border to Western markets.

As a sweetener for Turkey’s co-operation on a project opposed by the US and several European governments, Putin would reduce the price of natural gas supplied by Gazprom to Turkey’s domestic market. The deal is a victory for Putin who wants to supply Western markets with natural gas without using the existing pipelines that run through Eastern Europe; the existing pipelines do not allow him to cut gas supplies to the Ukraine because this would disrupt sales to western countries. Turkish Stream, analysts say, “would replace a planned pipeline through Bulgaria that the EU blocked at the outset of the Ukraine crisis.”

Someone could ask, how such a development would affect Cyprus. First, it debunks the myth being peddled by our politicians and media that Russia has always been a steadfast supporter of the Greek Cypriots and always took a “principled position” on the Cyprus problem. How could anyone still make such claims when it is blatantly obvious that Putin desperately needs Turkey’s co-operation to implement his energy plans, blocked by the EU? Only a complete fool would entertain the idea that Russia’s stance on the Cyprus problem is determined by principles rather than its national and strategic interests.

An even bigger fool would believe that Moscow would dream of jeopardising its restored relations with Turkey over a tiny and inconsequential island like Cyprus. The truth is that Russia has always opposed a Cyprus settlement because this maintained the rift within Nato and caused problems to the Organisation’s security co-operation with the EU. It was the main reason it had given its support to Tassos Papadopoulos in 2004, when the whole world backed the proposed settlement, and why its current ambassador in Nicosia maintains very close relations with the leaders of the opposition, rejectionist parties. It is why Russia has been urging Greek Cypriots not to accept a settlement with Turkish guarantees, a point made by foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov last Tuesday when he met Akel chief Andros Kyprianou in Moscow. Setting its own red lines is Russia’s idea of helping the peace efforts.

Meanwhile, on Thursday Israel’s energy minister Yuvan Steinitz said that Israel and Turkey had agreed to explore the viability of an undersea gas pipeline that would take Israeli gas to Turkey and on to Europe. News that the Turkish Stream was back on track may have forced Israel to act, with Steinitz saying that the “Turkish option is very important.” Israel has decided there was no time to waste waiting for a Cyprus settlement before it started discussing the building of a pipeline, which would pass through the Cyprus EEZ.

This development debunks another myth of the rejectionists – that by having a strategic alliance with Israel we would not need a Cyprus settlement to extract and sell our natural gas. They cannot see that Israel’s national interests are better-served by a gas deal with Turkey than a so-called strategic alliance with Cyprus that offers it no advantages. The development also makes a mockery of President Anastasiades’ boast that Cyprus would become a regional energy hub. Turkey has already taken that role and without a settlement we would probably not even be able to extract our natural gas and sell it.

It is as a result of our politicians’ blindness to what is happening in the outside world that they are under the illusion there would be no cost to maintaining the current status quo, because we would have the allegedly steadfast support of Russia and a strategic alliance (only in name) with Israel. They cannot see that Cyprus’ political, security and economic interests would be best served by a settlement that would normalise relations with Turkey and include the island in the energy plans for the region, that have the full backing of the US and our EU partners. There would be no better guarantee for Cyprus’ security and future than becoming an integral part of regional energy plans, which are being shaped by the US and not Russia.





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