Cyprus has always attracted a lot of attention due to its strategic importance. However, in recent years, the importance of this third biggest island in the Mediterranean went up a few notches with the new natural resources found in the East Mediterranean basin. The reason for this is the sanctions against Russia and energy-poor EU looking for other sources of energy. This source that emerged right at this point suddenly became an important alternative for EU.
Natural gas, which is an important part of the Cyprus talks, is the common treasure of both communities of the island. For this reason, Turkey reacted to being ignored in the search for energy in Southeast Mediterranean and made it clear that it would make no concessions in this issue.
That being said, there is no reason why the Cyprus negations, which became heavily linked to the issue of natural gas, cannot be concluded positively as long as the parties adopt a peaceful, equal, and just manner. However, the real target of the energy search in the Eastern Mediterranean is not limited to low amounts of natural gas found in South Cyprus. Another purpose is preparing a corridor for the vast amounts of natural gas found off the shores of Israel and Lebanon. The safest and most feasible way to take this gas to Europe is through Turkey via Cyprus and if peace is not ensured, this gas cannot be moved. That’s why the talks are connected to the energy resources.
Turkey is the only country that recognized the TRNC after its declaration of independence in 1983. The heavy sanctions by the UN and the international community, the UN calling the northern part of the island ‘under occupation’ are the main points in the talks. Although former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan of 2004 brought a solution one step closer. However Greeks rejecting the plan brought everything back to square one But the Turks said ‘yes’, proving their solution-oriented approach to the world and this won them the hearts of the international community. However, it is still an unrecognized country that still completely depends on Turkey. The decades long embargoes and sanctions have made it completely reliant on Turkey economically, militarily and politically. Almost one third of the TRNC budget is provided by Turkey, while its infrastructure and defense industries are heavily depends on Ankara. Other than the aid provided by Turkey, the economy of North Cyprus relies mostly on the service industry and 80% of the almost 1.2 million tourists that went to the TRNC in 2012 were Turkish people.
Turkey is present on the island with 30,000 Turkish troops that stayed there since its military incursion of July 20, 1974 done to bring peace. This is another important point of discussion. However those who try to portray Turkey as an occupying force and attempt to make the presence of Turkish troops as the first condition of talks, do not ask about the scores of people brutally slaughtered from 1963-1974 by EOKA gangs in Turkish villages, or the Bloody Christmas where Lieutenant Nihat Ilhan’s wife and three children were gruesomely slaughtered in a bathtub. It is strange that those who have turned a blind eye to these murders for years find it acceptable to call the Turkish peace operation an “occupation”, when it was done to ensure peace and protect these innocent Cypriots.
It should be well remembered that Turkey sees the TRNC as another city of Turkey. One generation grew up with the Cyprus issue, fell as martyrs for it, stood up for it: Turks cannot even imagine compromising the safety of the Cypriots. This is not a matter of supporting the status quo, but being aware of the price that has been paid and ensuring the safety of the people there. Even risks to its EU membership haven't deterred Turkey from standing up for Cyprus, although EU membership is important for it. Turkey, as confirmed by London and Zurich agreements and the UN, has guarantor powers in the Cyprus issue and will continue to be one of the most important parties.
However, no one should be fooled by the latest events and think that President Akıncı will pursue different policies. He was elected with promises of fulfilling his peoples’ wishes in an independent manner and he showed enthusiasm for building ties with the Greek community. He made concrete promises, such as reopening Maras under UN supervision, which has been closed since 1974 and using the port of Magusa and the airport at Ercan for direct commercial and non-commercial flights and he also showed enthusiasm in starting trade with the Greek side, which is suffering from a financial crisis much like their counterparts on the European mainland. It is the most natural thing for these two communities that live on the same island to share resources and have links to each other. Therefore, it is very good that he wants a solution. However, he also knows that rejecting the status quo doesn’t mean rejecting the guarantor status of Turkey and that it is entirely possible to develop new policies with Turkey. In addition, it shouldn't be forgotten that the peace process has always been impeded by the Greek side. Even the financial crisis in Greece itself couldn't convince the Greeks to make peace and various ultimatums by the Church kept the Greeks away from the Turks. Mr. Akıncı is well aware of the price Turkey has paid over the decades and that Turkish Cypriots owe their safety and security to Turkey and the presence of the Turkish troops. Therefore, his next steps will be made with that awareness. Turkey, like always, will side with peace while it defends its principles and red lines; it will be in favor of a solution that's in the best interests of the Cypriots, as was the case with the Annan Plan. Turkey will clearly not compromise on its bi-communal, bi-zonal federal state plan and will not leave the island entirely to Greek rule. Therefore, the wisest thing to do is avoiding further unnecessary squabbles over natural gas and share this natural wealth in a fair and equitable manner to take it to Europe in the cheapest and fastest way, which will also bring great economic security to the island. Furthermore, sharing the water provided by Turkey will also no doubt prove to be very beneficial for the Greek side. This will bring peace, security and justice to both sides. As Turkish PM Mr. Davutoğlu wisely put it, ‘We might be two different states and two different nations, but it will be intelligent to plan our countries as one. Both countries will benefit from that.’ Reaching a solution in Cyprus will have a positive impact not only on the two communities, but also on Turkish/Greek, Turkish/EU and future federal Cyprus/Turkey relations.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arabian Gazette: