Defusing a crisis

The crisis in Cyprus is escalating rapidly and defusing it is an extremely delicate and complicated procedure that will inevitably lead to losses for the weakest of the two sides. The course of bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey in the Metapolitefsi era and since 1981 in particular, when PASOK came to power, is proof enough.

The crisis today is about Turkey’s violation of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus (EEZ) with the Barbaros seismic research vessel. Turkey’s position for the reunification of Cyprus, which must – according to the Annan Plan – be based on the agreement for a bizonal, bicommunal settlement, has remained unchanged for decades and was reiterated yesterday by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

But over the years that Nicosia was promoting the utilization of natural gas reserves in Cyprus’s EEZ, Ankara’s objections were limited to rhetoric. What changed that was the announcement that Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras would visit Egypt together in order to discuss a trilateral agreement on the EEZ issue.

The two leaders have an indisputable right to promote the interests of their respective countries but the introduction of a third party in the mining of natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean basin was obviously something Ankara could never accept given the strained relations between Turkey and Egypt right now over the Muslim Brotherhood.

Moreover, the fact that Samaras is prime minister has made Ankara more wary of the Greek government’s intentions and its skepticism was only heightened by talk of a unilateral designation of the Greek EEZ – as is Greece’s right, of course. The idea was introduced by Samaras but later abandoned when it was deemed unwise.

The Barbaros is currently sailing in Cypriot EEZ waters. The Cyprus president is issuing demarches in all directions. Nicosia argues that the current crisis is more serious than the Imia obe. If Cyprus means that, then it is certainly aware of the fact that the escalation of that crisis eventually established the perception of “gray areas” in that particular area of the Aegean Sea. The equivalent in Cyprus would no doubt be the establishment of two “states” of equal components in the Unified Democracy of Cyprus. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is to leave for Brussels to begin his duties as European commissioner in the next few days, while Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has too much on his plate and limited experience on the international front. The aim of Greece and Cyprus should be to defuse the crisis with the least possible damage.

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