What takes precedence for Cyprus: a solution or drilling?by Mehmet Hasgüler*
By beginning to drill in for oil in the Mediterranean, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias is trying to communicate that he has given up on talks with Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC).
He has effectively placed the “bomb” of drilling at the base of the lengthy bilateral negotiations. It would have been better for Cyprus, a “sovereign” state, and still the center of so much controversy, to have begun its drilling only after a fair and sustainable solution had been reached through talks. When we say “sovereign” state, we are talking about a “sui generis” (unique) status which two peoples can share on the island of Cyprus only through compromise.
In Cyprus, sovereignty is defined and its limitations are set by three guarantor countries, Turkey, England, and Greece, via international agreements. Further definition and limitations are imposed by the EU standards brought in after May 1, 2004. Just three years after the creation of the two republics that formed the state of Cyprus, the sovereignty that was meant to be shared began to be used solely by the Greek side. The essence of this very controversial situation is the illegal and illegitimate treatment of the Greek Cypriots by international society, as though they alone were the owners of the Cypriot Republic. It is the illegitimate nature of this situation that is the main cause behind all the crises involving the island.
In the meantime, there is no longer much meaning in any solutions which might emerge from Cyprus talks for either the EU or other centers of power. The result of this is interesting: The Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL), which forms the main artery of the movement to unify Cyprus, through beginning the drilling, have demonstrated their willingness to deal a serious blow to the ideal of a unified Cyprus. The classic EU powers of Germany and France have put an end to the EU values and ideals which were to be spread all over Cyprus, in an attempt to balance out the power of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
Time for a new approach
In April 2004, it became obvious to the EU that simply blocking a solution for the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey was no longer a sustainable option, and that it was time to develop a new approach. Now the new idea being put forward is that somehow Turkey is blocking the economic development and investment desires of a country which is an EU member. Let us say for a moment that this theory is true, and that this is actually what Turkey is doing. Wouldn’t the shortest route to preventing this be for Greek Cyprus to be seek a unified Cyprus, and hold off drilling until after a solution is found? Serious progress has been achieved through talks, and since solving the overall Cyprus issue begins to seem easier every moment, why is it that Christofias is making things more difficult?
To turn to the issue of Israel, there has never before been a time when Israel has had problems with all of the three large states of the Middle East, Turkey, Egypt, and Iran, at once. It has always been essential for Israel to have good relations with at least one of these states. As it becomes clear that Israel is isolated within the region, the fact that Christofias is in alliance with this state, which has perpetrated every sort of cruelty imaginable upon the Palestinians over the past 63 years, strengthens the likelihood that Greek Cyprus is also making serious errors on other fronts as well.
I am of course aware that Mr. Christofias has abandoned his public identity as someone who assists on issues that concern the lives of people in the Third World. He now sees his country as a part of the First World. However, the new road he is taking these days in pursuit of natural gas and petroleum is not exactly inspiring hope in observers. Perhaps he is even aware that these actions will have no real meaning other than to help Israel feel less alone in the eastern Mediterranean. This drilling business is coming up around the same time the UN is slated to vote on approving Palestinian statehood, and you have taken on a certain clear role in all this; no doubt you have calculated every sort of serious contribution, positive or negative, that this will have towards the Cyprus’ national issues.
Christofias, who says he has devoted himself to unifying Cyprus, is now involved in talks and alliances that make it clear as day that what he is really serving is no sort of unification, but the perpetual division of the island. I believe we will all see shortly that the talks are replaced with drilling in the sea. The Greek Cypriots first took on the EU as a partner in the Cyprus issue, and then formed links with Israel as partner in drilling for energy sources. Northern Cyprus is not EU land, but rather identifies with the Middle East. I suppose this road will lead us to debates on the status of Northern Cyprus in the wake of the UN vote on Palestine. Christofias originally won the elections by promising that he would prevent Cyprus from becoming like Kosovo, and since he will now lose the elections due to having allied himself with Israel on the issue of Palestine, he will also have initiated with this drilling a period of defeat for those who wish to see Cyprus united. Every sort of wealth that exists on that island is still in a position to be shared by the two peoples of the island after a solution is found. Don’t forget that.
*Dr. Mehmet Hasgüler is the acting director of the Institute of Science and Humanities at European University of Lefke in north Cyprus.