Managing Greek and Cypriot Energy Geo-Strategy
By Aris Petasis
Editor’s Note: This is in response to Russia’s Motives in Cyprus and Greece, published in ET on Dec. 24, 2012.
Any discussion on the management of Cyprus’ and Greece’s energy reserves has to take cognizance of the geopolitics of the volatile Eastern-Mediterranean and the shifting political sands of the Middle East. It was interesting to hear the Greek Ambassador to Cyprus say that diplomacy should guide our judgment as regards the energy finds off Cyprus and Greece. Whilst recognizing the importance of economics that you raise in your article we also need to focus on diplomacy and geo-strategy. I respectfully submit that we need to go beyond the commercial sphere in our approach. I agree that Russia’s ability to make our energy reserves pawns to its overall energy/economic strategy, as you raise in your arguments, is an important consideration but this is not the crux of the matter. Equally, one would presume that Gazprom’s ability to manipulate the supply of Cypriot gas in favor of Russia’s interests is a matter that can be dealt with adequately with the help of world authorities like you through a carefully drafted commercial contract that would put our minds to rest.
- From the moment Noble Energy announced the preliminary findings of its work in Cyprus waters Turkey started threatening our reserves and the Republic of Cyprus. Not long ago there were serious tensions that culminated in the dispatching by Turkey to Cyprus waters and airspace warships and fighter planes. Turkey takes the same heavy-handed approach as regards Greece’s finds. These threats bring into sharp relief the need to protect our energy reserves. The fact that the great powers made declarations to the effect that Cyprus is entitled to exploit its energy reserves is encouraging but not enough as often such pronouncements prove to be hollow in times of crisis. We have just taken the first step on the road to exploiting our energy reserves. Many twists and turns lie ahead of us. Turkey has not said its last word yet and is known to stick to its strategic decisions. Without a doubt Turkey wants to get its hands on Cyprus’s and Greece’s reserves. We need to brace ourselves for more threatening Turkish actions. In a supine move some fickle Greek politician (in Cyprus and Greece) are already hinting at the need to “share” our reserves to avoid trouble!
- The answer to the question, “who can help us diplomatically and geo-strategically?” lies in another question, “who helped us the last time we were in a quagmire as a result of the Anan plan?” We all recall that just before the fateful referendum was due to take place in April, 2004 the Western powers hurriedly tried to pass a Security Council resolution making the Anan plan international law. Had this resolution gone through and become law (to explain: in practice Security Council resolutions are useless declarations when they apply to powerful nations and international law in the case of small and weak countries like Cyprus.) Had this resolution gone through Cyprus would, in the best of circumstances, become a protectorate of Turkey. Russia came to our rescue and stopped this frightening move against us.
- From a geostrategic point of view we need the involvement of world and regional powers. Russia, the US and Israel are examples of such powers. Turkey is likely to take Russia’s and Israel’s involvement very seriously when planning its next (aggressive) moves. Both these countries are Turkey’s neighbors and strategic competitors. Turkey is continuously expanding its power and it is axiomatic that no country wants its neighbor to grow too strong. Whilst recognizing that Turkey is an important commercial partner of Russia one need not forget that Turkey’s influence in the Caucuses, Central Asia and the Black Sea is already causing consternation in Russia. Turkey’s push for leadership in the Middle East is causing concern for Israel, and for that matter Egypt. Egypt has been the traditional and recognized leader of the Arab world and resents Turkey’s intrusion. Whilst striving to keep the best of relations with all world and regional powers we need to stay close to Russia and Israel as these countries are likely to shrug off Turkey’s diplomatic and strong-arm tactics. Western powers are prone to yield to Turkish pressures on account of long standing alliances that are often inimical to Russia.
I submit that the management of the Cyprus/Greece energy reserves is more than a simple commercial exercise. At its core lies: diplomacy and geo-strategy as much as economics. We need to view Russia and Israel as pivotal players that need to be on board with us. Importantly, we need to work closely and amicably with the US, France, China, the UK (guarantor power of our constitution) and our friend Egypt making doubly sure that the interests of these important countries are served.
Petasis is the CEO of a managing consulting firm in Cyprus
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