Tuesday 10 June 2014

Article - Turkey's interest lies in a Cyprus solution (Published in Greek in 24h newspaper, March 2014)

Turkey’s interest lies in a Cyprus solution

Most Greek Cypriots don’t believe that Turkey genuinely wants a solution in Cyprus. It is commonly viewed as ill-intentioned, insincere, dishonest in this respect. And believe me, most Turkish Cypriots have trust issues with Turkey too. However, all these perceptions are wrong. Not because Turkey is well-intentioned, sincere or honest; but because intentions, sincerity or honesty are irrelevant. These are not the criteria that any country acts on. Countries act on interests.

Turkey pursued a policy of division in Cyprus for decades arguing that non-solution is the solution itself, because it believed that the status-quo was in its interest. The Justice and Development Party government, when it came to power in 2003, totally altered Turkey’s Cyprus policy because it realized that a solution in Cyprus would be in its interest: it would bring the county closer to the EU and improve its relations with the Western world. And today, Turkey, which aspires to become a big regional power in Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, is well aware that a solution in Cyprus would greatly increase its strategic importance, now more so, due to the discovery of hydrocarbons in the region.

Europe needs the Eastern Mediterranean gas to diversify its resources and maintain energy security. And the easiest, cheapest and most profitable way of exporting this gas to Europe is to transfer it with a pipeline through Turkey. This would not only benefit Turkey economically through cheaper supply of natural gas, but also turn Turkey into a critical transit point for natural gas to Europe. This would present Turkey with the opportunity to play a major role in the European energy policy and become a country of increased strategic importance in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Not to mention that Turkey will have solved one of the biggest problems that continuously hampers its relations with the international community, clear the way for a NATO-EU cooperation, shake off a huge economic burden that it has on its shoulders both because it constantly has to inject money into a unsustainable economy and because it pays millions of Euros in compensation every year as a result of cases before the European Court of Human Rights.

Turkey needs to get rid of the Cyprus problem if it is to meet its aspirations. Not because it loves Cypriots or is sincere, or because it wants to correct a mistake; but because a solution in Cyprus is in its interest.

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