OPINION

The Cypriot side of the court

As was expected, exploratory drilling for natural gas in Block 12 of Cyprus?s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has indicated that there are untapped energy sources in the area. The value of the deposit found is estimated at a minimum of $100 million. It goes without saying that such a find will have an effect not just on the geoeconomics, but also on the geopolitics of the wider region. The United States and the European Union, moreover, have for years held conflicting views on the issue of energy. The Americans have long been claiming that Europe?s reliance on Russian natural gas also leads to political reliance. Now, however, Europe has discovered that it has energy sources in its own backyard. This means that US interests may converge with those of Brussels, Greece and Cyprus.

Westerners prefer that the energy deposits be controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, rather than by tough Turkey, which is playing its own geopolitical game. The same goes for Moscow, which maintains traditional ties with Nicosia and is anticipating the participation of Russian companies in any developments. Israel has also given its active support. The geopolitical reason is that strained ties with Turkey and the change of regime in Egypt have compelled Israel to reassess the value of Cyprus and Greece as safe air and sea passages to the West. The geoeconomic reason is that the Israelis need Cyprus to export their own natural gas to Europe. What they suggest is for Israeli and Cypriot natural gas to be processed at an Israeli liquefaction plant in southern Cyprus. It is this convergence of interests that compelled Israel and Cyprus to forge a strategic relationship, which by default includes Greece.

Greece must, albeit belatedly, start seeing itself once more as a country of the eastern Mediterranean. The perception that Cyprus?s interests are not intrinsically linked with Greece?s has led to a one-sided approach to national security that is of great advantage to Turkey. Firstly, because it allows it too much freedom in the eastern Mediterranean, where it frequently conducts military exercises aimed at controlling the sea route that joins Cyprus to Greece. Secondly, it allows Ankara to make claims that are not based on international law.

The fact that Greece is caught in the maelstrom of an economic crisis is no reason for it to abandon a part of its turf, which is just as important geoeconomically as it is geopolitically. Meanwhile, it must also take into account that the interest in energy deposits is focused mainly south and southeast of Crete.