By Nicos A. Rolandis
Cyprus and her painful history! Very few moments of joy characterise her 60-year history. Most of the days have been dull. This year we celebrate 60 years of independence. But do we really celebrate?
Dear President, you try hard. You move all the time into three, four or five-party conferences. In an atmosphere which cannot be very productive, due to the instability of our region. Our big problem is, as time goes by and we are left with an unresolved national issue, that we are faced with a very dangerous situation. I would not write today my 176th article if I was not really worried. As I was worried back in 1973, together with a small group of people, who had meetings from time to time with Glafcos Clerides as well. They called us “danger-mongers” in those days, up until the Armageddon of 1974 destroyed the country and we were unfortunately proved to be correct.
The Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute has been visiting Cyprus often during the past two years. There have also been meetings in Nicosia, New York and Berlin. She is trying to pave the way. Unfortunately, to no avail. There is not a single smile. We cannot agree even the “terms of reference”. The Cyprus problem has been gradually lost into the depth of time…
In March 1998, 22 years back, I commenced, in an atmosphere of hostility and irony, my efforts for natural gas. I envisaged that the potentially great wealth in the depth of the sea, might constitute an incentive and a catalyst for the solution of the Cyprus problem. A small population of approximately one million people might benefit a lot from such a potentially huge bonanza.
I even went to the point of putting forward a proposal in the years 2005/2006 for the distribution of the possible gas wealth on a basis of 75-80% for the Greek Cypriots and 20-25% for the Turkish Cypriots, irrespective of the solution of the Cyprus problem. The Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat showed a strong interest and he undertook to handle the matter together with Ankara. Our own side did nothing and left the matter to fall into oblivion, as we did many times with the Cyprus problem as well. Today we pay the price for our blunders.
On the 28th January 1956 the British Secretary of State for the Colonies Alan Lennox-Boyd wished Archbishop Makarios, in a cold manner: “May God save your people”, when Makarios rejected a good plan which might constitute a unique opportunity for Cyprus.
On the 7th July 2017 (61 years later) the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Crans Montana, Switzerland, wished Anastasiades and Akinci, in a cold manner: “Good luck to all Cypriots in the North and the South”.
The first time the wishes were addressed to the people. The second time to the “north” and the “south”. I do not know whether there will be a third time nor do I know who will be around for a wish at that time.
Nowadays we encounter three major dangers:
Danger No.1: Turkey has invaded with a full force the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus. She buys new drilling equipment of a great value. Natural gas is not pumped in a matter of one or two years. It takes 15-20 years to complete the operation. So, the new Turkish invasion, with drilling equipment, seismic vessels and part of the navy will be permanent. The objective of Turkey must be to pump as much gas as she may manage herself and in parallel to use her fleet to threaten and prevent the licensed oil companies from their work when the right time comes. Oil companies do not react in a dynamic manner – this was stated by their representatives as well. The same applies to their respective governments. There is no strong reaction neither in Cyprus nor in other parts of the world on oil and gas issues. The European Union and its sanctions are useful from a political and legal point of view but they will not be pragmatically effective – this was the case in other parts of the world as well. Unfortunately, as usual, and as was the case with the Cyprus problem, the train of the solution of the hydrocarbons is not at the station anymore. It was there when I made my proposals back in 2005/2006.
Under these dangerous circumstances I made a proposal for the “freezing” (moratorium) for one year of all oil and gas activities in the Cyprus EEZ. During the moratorium period a very intense effort should take place for the solution of the Cyprus problem. If the problem is resolved the hydrocarbons issue will also be adequately addressed on the basis of the agreements of the past (Christofias-Talat).
My proposal was viewed positively by Mustafa Akinci through his statements and was also approved by politicians and political analysts such as the erudite Alecos Markides and also Christos Panayiotides. My proposal was in line with the position of Glafcos Clerides as well, who in February 2003, told me in the presence of Pantelis Kouros, that I should place the Cyprus-Egypt EEZ Agreement in the strongbox of my Ministry until the Cyprus problem is resolved. Is this not tantamount to a moratorium?
I do not know how Ankara may react to this proposal. There are press reports that she may be positive. If this will be the final Turkish position, I would strongly recommend that we should be positive too. Without this “way out” the dialogue will never commence, since we do not speak with the Turks as long as the Turkish fleet is in our EEZ. The moratorium is the only solution. It does not affect our rights, which will be simply suspended, as so many other rights of ours are suspended as a result of the Turkish occupation.
It should be noted that I proposed the moratorium initially by my above article of the 23rd March 2018 and I repeated the proposal time and again since then.
Second danger: Turkey has signed with Libya an unlawful memorandum of understanding. A large strip of water which belongs to Greece is delineated as Turkish-Libyan EEZ. What happens in case Turkey places on a permanent basis her drilling equipment on this strip of water? (She has already threatened to do so). Will Greece strike and if she does so and the hostilities expand what about Cyprus, the Achilles heel of Hellenism? Will Greece be in a position to defend Cyprus if necessary, in an effective manner – something which has never happened in the past? Alternatively, is there a way to avert a major national disaster?
Third Danger: Famagusta may be lost for ever. The Mediterranean nymph which we left slip through our fingers seven times in the past (my book “Glimpses into Life and History”, Chapter 8) is on a journey of no return. Turkey and a number of Turkish Cypriot leaders are aiming at changing her character, introducing new owners and converting the city into their own tourist destination in the Eastern Mediterranean. With an unresolved Cyprus problem and without a dialogue such an outcome is possible. Who is going to stop Turkey in this world, which is solely based on interests and not on principles?
The questions are not easy to answer. Because we failed to do what we ought to have done at the right moment. I suggest a few things in this article. I propose again a moratorium of one year on energy and a dialogue on Cyprus. I strongly hope and trust that wisdom, which has been absent from our deliberations and activities in the past 70 years, appears and guides our lives. If it is not too late.
*** Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Commerce of the Republic of Cyprus