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Will Cyprus’ real friends please stand up? February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Oil Crisis.
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It is obvious that the whole issue about liquid gas exploration off the southern coast of Cyprus has been blown out of proportion in a game in which we are new, or even, amateur players.

Yet, Turkey’s insistence to have a say in the whole matter makes one wonder if Ankara knows something we don’t. Or is it simply making a lot of noise as it often does in order to divert world public opinion as far away from its internal troubles as possible.

Asking the experts (and there are only a handful in Cyprus) we can conclude that if there are significant gas reserves, and assuming that these lie along the same strain of gas finds in Egypt’s offshore Nile Delta area, then it will take several years to explore, let alone develop. This would cost Cyprus or any potential partner several billions of dollars to tap and produce, with a return on investment not in our sights for at least 15-20 years.

On the other hand, if Turkey’s threats are to be taken seriously, it’s about time Cyprus asked its true friends to stand by its side. Such friendship is not developed lightly through casual assistance provided during an international crisis, nor by the exchange of diplomatic missions and the subsequent signature of a host of bilateral agreements. It has to be cultivated slowly but surely over a long period of time, something which has obviously been Cyprus’ weak point in its back-seat foreign policy of several decades.

Hiding behind the premise that ever since Cyprus joined the European Union it is obliged to follow a common foreign policy is a lame excuse. Britain, Spain, Poland and Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany and France, are prime examples of the non-implementation of a common foreign policy, which they often manipulate to suit their needs (or that of their trans-Atlantic patrons).

Turkey is a major financier through its state-owned enterprises or private businesses in most of our neighbouring Middle East countries. All Cyprus has is a handful of investors taking their production facilities to nearby plants, or making small investments in the retail, services, telecoms and hotels businesses.

Cyprus played a major role in the evacuation of western nationals and other victims of last summer’s war in southern Lebanon, a gesture much appreciated even today. Yet Ankara has deployed peacekeepers along the southern border in order to help maintain the calm between the militant Hezbollah and Turkey’s main ally, Israel.

We are not suggesting that Cyprus too deploy hundreds of troops or police units in order to contribute to regional peace. However, the lack of a proactive foreign policy with little if any incentives given to Cyprus-based companies to invest heavily in the Middle East, is costing us in terms of finding true allies in the area.

Cyprus must embark on a major foreign policy campaign and help Cypriot companies take great strides in the economic development of the region, even in the reconstruction of Lebanon.

Instead of remaining silent bystanders and reacting to crises, Cyprus should find the opportunities and seek to become key players. This is what Turkey does and always seems to come out on top. We could at least take a leaf out of Turkey’s foreign policy book by building on their successes and learning from their mistakes.

If we do not establish strong ties with our neighbours, then we will continue to remain without any serious allies and shuttle from one Islamic conference to another, seeking support for yet another washed-down resolution “in favour of Cyprus.”

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