Moment of truth for the Cyprus issue

Moment of truth for the Cyprus issue

Nicosia is faced with a tough and complex reality. Things are likely to become even tougher as we approach the moment of truth on the Cyprus issue, the time when the players involved decide whether the problem can be solved on the basis of a mutually acceptable solution or not. 

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has played his cards deftly. Nicosia licensed off exploration rights to important countries. He invested heavily in Cyprus’ relations with Israel and the Jewish-American lobby. Obviously, this game has its limitations which cannot be overcome. 

The Israeli leadership made it very clear that, no matter how close the bilateral relationship is, nobody will fight on behalf of someone else in the region. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s silence lately perhaps points to the limitations of any assistance when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may decide to test Cyprus’ resolve.

Israeli-Turkish relations may remain at a low point for decades to come, but it is unlikely those boundaries will be crossed.

The same is true for the European powers. Turkey is a major trading partner. Erdogan controls migrant and refugee flows to Europe and, along with that, the political future of European leaders.

At the same time, something strange is happening: Behind closed doors, Israelis and a number of Europeans have expressly stated that they do not want any solution that would indirectly involve Turkey in EU decision-making, or in the foreign policy of the Republic of Cyprus.

President Anastasiades can expect to face escalating pressure from Turkey, either in the form of missions to explore for natural gas, or as threats to open the fenced-off quarter of Varosha in the Turkish-occupied ghost town of Famagusta and allow people other than its previous inhabitants to settle there.

It is certainly important for him to know what he wants to achieve and send clear messages to all parties involved. The solution to the Cyprus issue, considering the realities that have accumulated on the ground since 1974, will not be an easy task.

And if Anastasiades wants one, he will have to fight the political battle of his life.

If there is no solution to the problem, that will be the “end of the line” and a catastrophic formalization of the partition.

Anastasiades is a tough player and has proven that he knows how to survive. His biggest challenge is ahead.

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