NEITHER our geo-strategic importance nor our strategic trilateral alliances that Phil and the rest of the bash-patriotic geo-strategists love to peddle were much help in the last week after the Turkish warships stopped the ENI drillship from reaching its drilling target in Block 3.
ENI’s Saipem 12000 has been stuck in the same spot of the Mediterranean for more than a week, waiting in vain for our government’s diplomatic efforts to force the Turks to behave reasonably and allow it to move on. Now, our only hope is that when the Navtex, issued by Turkey, expires on Thursday the Saipem would be allowed to go to the Soupia plot.
The diplomatic processes, on which our government put all its weight, according to its spokesman and soon to be foreign minister, Nicos Christodoulides, had proved pretty ineffective, but the Paphite Dalai Lama was not giving up on them. “Time must be given to diplomacy to yield results, so that the correct decisions will be taken.”
How much time must be given, a few days, months or years? And if diplomacy did not yield results, which is looking increasingly likely, would the government take the wrong decisions like it always does?
THE REALITY is that diplomacy has failed us. All our government’s valiant diplomatic efforts and intensive use of the “diplomatic channels” which the Dalai Lama repeatedly referred in his public statements came to nothing.
The Turks did not budge and to make matters worse neither our new strategic ally, Israel, nor the “traditionally friendly country” Mother Russia dared to condemn Turkey’s violation of our sovereignty or its bullying tactics. Israel, which we had hoped would fight Turkey on our behalf, avoided saying anything, while Mother Russia, which always takes a principled stand on the Cyprob, avoided doing so this time.
In a statement, foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zacharova, took great care not to say anything that could be deemed offensive by Ankara, concluding that the dispute highlighted, “one more time, the need for ways to solve the Cyprus as soon as possible.”
It was the first time Mother Russia said it wanted a settlement as soon as possible, and failed to mention its traditional opposition to artificial time-frames. Our government’s diplomacy must be yielding the wrong results, when Mother Russia takes a position on the EEZ dispute exactly the same as that of the hated Brits and Yanks.
PREZ NIK explained the government’s main objective, while leaving church last Sunday – “the avoidance of anything that could make the situation worse.” The Dalai Lama also echoed this view, making it clear that our side did not want an escalation.
It made me wonder what we could have done to make things worse and escalate the situation. Would we have sent the search and rescue ship we recently bought from Israel to chase away the Turkish warships? Would we have attacked with our air force or would we have sent in the cavalry? Let’s face it, our powers of escalation were non-existent, so avoiding making things worse was the only choice we had.
OUR ONLY weapon, apart from our geo-strategic importance and trilateral strategic alliances is brave rhetoric, but even that was a bit subdued in the last week.
Phil, to its credit, tried to raise morale and boost national pride, by reporting on Wednesday that Kyproulla was retaliating. The Republic issued a Navtex, reserving a sea area of 600 square kilometres, for an exercise with live fire scheduled for the following day, it reported, adding that the area was adjacent to the area reserved by Turkey.
Phil’s “information suggests that the Navtex of the Cyprus Republic is not unrelated to information about the presence of an Italian frigate in the area.”
The story, posted on the Phil website, alarmed the government so much the Dalai Lama wasted no time in calling the paper to put things right. Comments made by the Dalai Lama to Sigma TV were incorporated in the story. Two Navtex warnings had been issued by the government, one at the request of UNIFIL and one on behalf of the Russian Federation, the spokesman was reported as saying. The government did not want anyone to think it was engaging in tit-for-tat, while waiting for the diplomatic processes to yield results.
THE HEAD of the Cyprus Studies Centre, Christos Iacovou, a man not renowned for intellectual rigour, having not been told about the Dalai Lama’s correction to the Phil story, commended the government’s retaliatory tactic on Sigmalive.
Iacovou described the Navtex as an “indication of a reaction to diplomatic goings-on.” Asked why Turkey chose “this escalation in the specific block,” Iacovou gave three reasons, the best of which was the second. “The second reason is the trilateral co-operations undertaken by Cyprus that create an energy bloc with Turkey being excluded,” the man that describes himself as an ‘international-ologist” said.
Iacovou’s comment pales when compared to last Sunday’s article by Savvas Iacovides in Simerini, who attacked Prez Nik for doing nothing for defence. “Where is the Cypriot navy and air force? Where are the special forces for the protection of the natural wealth of Cyprus? Why had the billions for defence not been utilised for the strengthening of the National Guard? If Turkey starts drilling in the Cypriot EEZ, who will stop her? Who will kick her out?” Hasn’t he heard that the government has put all its weight on diplomatic processes?
SPEAKING of the Dalai Lama, his ego must have been wounded by the former attorney-general Alecos Markides, who wrote a short piece on Facebook urging Ioannis Kasoulides to stay as foreign minister for a few more months. Markides said Nicos could wait a few months longer before becoming FM.
In period of crisis, because of the situation in our EEZ, the FM had a “big responsibility to exhaust the diplomatic options of the Cyprus Republic,” wrote Markides. With his “huge experience, but mainly being trusted abroad for his commitment to a settlement he can and must perform a vital role in the interest of Cyprus.”
Markides’ implication was that the Dalai Lama was inexperienced and his commitment to a settlement was not trusted abroad. It is not trusted in Kyproulla either, where everyone knows the Paphite is a sweet-talking, closet rejectionist, but Markides is being a bit naïve if he thinks the Dalai Lama is the problem. Is Prez Nik, whom he urged to keep Kasoulides in his post, trusted by anyone abroad for his commitment to a settlement?
HAD KASOULIDES regretted his decision to leave his post and asked Markides to conduct a campaign for his retention, using the critical phase of the Cyprob as an excuse?
On Monday night, before the new council of ministers was announced, Kasoulides was on TV One informing us that Prez Nik had told him the Dalai Lama would be his successor. Kasoulides then sang the praises of smooth-talking Paphite, whom he described as his protégé and claimed would make an excellent FM.
This had not always been his opinion about him. In fact not so long ago, Kasoulides was telling a friend that the Dalai was unsuitable for the post of FM. He was also unhappy with the behaviour of Mrs Dalai Lama, who also worked at the foreign ministry. Kasoulides had had words with her about her bossy behaviour at the ministry, which, he said, could harm her hubby’s career.
He got that one wrong and Philippa will carry on behaving as she pleases having her hubby as her boss.
IN THE END, there were only four new faces in the new Council of Minister announced on Tuesday. The English School boys were defeated by the Church-backed Paphos faction led by the Dalai Lama who not only got the FM’s job but saw another Paphite, Costas Chambiaouris, added to the cabinet as education minister.
There are still three E.S. boys in the new cabinet, the departing Giorgos Pamborides, replaced by his friend and class-mate Costas Ioannou. It was not a plot by the E.S. boys, the appointment of Ioannou decided by Nik at the last minute, probably as a last resort, after failing to find anyone willing to take the responsibility of introducing the Gesy.
Apparently, Ioannou was offered the health minister’s post 10 minutes before the new cabinet was announced. He obviously did not have to think about the prez’s offer.
THE MOST bizarre appointment was Chambiaouris, whom we are informed by our Paphos moles as being, politically, to the right of Elam. He was probably chosen by the Elam-supporting, Bishop of Paphos Georgios, whom Archbishop Chrys always listens to.
Chambiaouris was a primary school teacher who rose to become an inspector of primary schools in Paphos, before becoming the regional director of Paphos primary schools. His main achievement, while in this post, was to remove all foreign kids from the two main Paphos primary schools, and put them in other schools, because the well-to-do Paphites did not want any foreigners mixing with their blue-blooded kids.
Chambiaouris, who has a bad temper and is somewhat lacking in social skills, had dozens of complaints filed against him, when he was regional director for his arbitrary decisions and heavy-handedness. In the last year, he moved to the ministry of education in Nicosia, where now he will impose his tyrannical style of management on staff that were above him in the hierarchy.
There may be a major revolt by the ministry mandarins before long. They should head to the Archbishopric as Chambiarouris was the choice of reactionary, nationalist Paphite priests.
At least parents that feel there are too many foreign kids at their kids’ primary school, will now have a sympathetic education minister willing to listen to their racist concerns.