Mar 21 2018

Diplomacy the best option for Cyprus gas dispute – expert

Turkey has strong reasons to step back from sabre rattling and use diplomacy to settle its dispute with the Republic of Cyprus over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, former EU diplomat and Carnegie Europe scholar Marc Pierini wrote in an article published on Tuesday.

Turkey has engaged in fierce rhetoric and naval activities to block gas exploration in the waters around Cyprus, an area which holds potentially huge gas reserves, illustrating the “renewed risk of a military mishap or miscalculation,” said Pierini.

The tense situation around gas exploration activities is by no means new, but has significant implications for the settlement of Cyprus, which was split between the Greek Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, after Turkey invaded the island in 1974.

Turkey maintains that attempts by Cyprus and its partners to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state that is only recognised by Ankara.

The dispute is complicated by the involvement of Israel, Egypt, the United States, the EU, and Russian gas operators in the area, making for a “problematic choreography”, said Pierini.

The potentially massive prize represented by control of gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean adds a further complication, and a rise in gas prices could spark “major political battles,” wrote the former EU ambassador.

Additionally, Turkey’s internal politics, and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s nationalist turn as it prepares for the upcoming presidential elections, have reduced the chance of a comprehensive Cyprus settlement.