The Cyprus Problem: Settlement via Turkey?
In the realm of work that is completed rather than in progress, I published an article on Turkey possibly being able to assist Greek Cypriots during their time of economic turmoil. Key to this is solving the Cyprus problem, a decades-long conflict that is a major impediment to regional integration. Settlement is doubtful in the short-term, but if it happens everyone could get rich.
Turkey’s potential as a regional energy hub could help alleviate the financial turmoil hitting the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, analysts say. But before any steps are taken, Ankara would like to see movement toward a resolution of the decades-long conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. And that is a long shot over the short term.
The Cyprus Problem
Solving the long-standing conflict on the divided island, which I visited for the first time last May, won’t happen easily. But observers hope that the current economic turmoil will push all sides towards settlement.
The basic idea is that if Turkish and Greek Cypriots overcome their differences, a natural gas pipeline can be built from Cyprus to Turkey. This would be the most cost-effective way of transporting natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. And Turkey is also a potential market.
Israel, which recently moved to normalize ties with Turkey, could also transport its off-shore energy resources to Europe via the same pipeline.
This sounds like a win-win situation for everyone. But the current mood in Cyprus doesn’t exactly lend itself to reconciliation. Smarting from the terms of the European Union (EU) bail-out and concerned about their immediate economic welfare, the last people Greek Cypriots want to speak with are their Turkish rivals.
“I don’t think there is room for negotiating soon. I mean in the coming months,” said Makarios Droushiotis, an adviser to Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades. Cooperation with Turkey might be “an alternative” in the future, he said, but at least until “the autumn,” the financial crisis will take priority over negotiations.