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Our View: Akinci’s approach to hydrocarbons dispute not doing Turkish Cypriot side any favours

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci

MUSTAFA Akinci is not doing himself any favours by making a fuss when the Cyprus government announces some energy-related plan. He may be making a sensible point, about such moves undermining prospects of a settlement, but all he achieves is add substance to the Greek Cypriot fear that Turkey wants to take control of the island’s hydrocarbons.

Commenting on Tuesday’s announcement by the trilateral alliance of Cyprus, Israel and Greece about the East Med pipeline, which at present is little more than a pipe-dream, Akinci said it was not possible to contribute to peace and stability in the region by excluding Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots from the energy plans. It would be sensible to manage natural resources on common benefit and carrying the gas through Turkey in a cheaper and faster way, he said.

It is true that cooperation with Turkey on hydrocarbons would contribute to peace in the region, but it is also true that Turkey is trying to hijack the Cyprus government’s energy plans using the rights of the Turkish Cypriots as a pretext. Only the second point would register with the Greek Cypriots, especially after February’s events in the EEZ, who use Turkey’s bullying behaviour as another argument against the possibility of energy co-operation, which cannot be achieved by force.

The funny thing is that the EastMed pipeline remains a long shot and no decision was taken by the trilateral alliance to build it. All that was decided was to agree the legal framework within which companies would operate in the event that the decision was taken to build the pipeline. First, though, the feasibility study, which will establish whether the pipeline could deliver gas at a competitive price, has to be completed. If the report establishes that the East Med pipeline – it is a big if – is viable, the private companies that would build it would also have to explore the viability of the project.

It could take years before a decision is finally taken and nobody could safely predict what it will be. Conditions in the energy market and gas prices are constantly changing and what might seem a good idea today could be deemed disastrous in the three or four years’ time. This is the nature of the energy industry. Akinci should know this just as he should know that nothing is achieved by protesting whenever the Cyprus government announces some grandiose plan about hydrocarbons.

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