Cyprus negotiations have been taking place on and off, with some short and some long breaks in between, since June 1968 following the Thirteen Points by Makarios on 30 November 1963. The intercommunal talks bore fruit in the early summer of 1974 but remained only on paper due to the military coup and the invasion.
Then negotiations entered a second phase on 27 January 1977, yielding “four guidelines” the following month as part of the Makarios-Denktash high-level agreements, with the first point saying “we are seeking an independent, non-aligned, bi-communal Federal Republic.”
Following half a century of talks, the train reached the Swiss Alps where the current UN Secretary General saw in June 2017 the rejection of a Solution Framework that he had put on the table.
Now he is bringing it back with Terms of Reference (!) and a 90 day timeframe. In the 17 months that followed Crans Montana, President Anastasiades sounded out many people, foreign and domestic, on the prospect of a confederation or two separate states being better than a BBF (bizonal, bicommunal federation).
Upon hearing this, Akinci publicly wondered 'how is it possible that Anastasiades does not consider the energy issue to be of vital importance to Turkish Cypriots?'
Seeing that he was walking a path of unchartered territory and in order not to stray off the UN framework, the president landed on “decentralized federation” and explained that this would convey “greater administrative autonomy to the two constituent states provided that the requirement for the cast of a positive vote by Turkish Cypriots be applied only to issues where a decision of an executive authority could have an adverse impact on vital interests to the Turkish Cypriot community.”
But he defeated his own argument when he gave an example of a Turkish Cypriot minister in a future federal administration who would vote against the creation of the EastMed pipeline!
Upon hearing this, Mr. Akinci publicly wondered “how is it possible that Mr. Anastasiades does not consider the energy issue to be of vital importance to Turkish Cypriots?”
The criticism was not without its merits, because multiple statements by Anastasiades show that he views the Republic of Cyprus as an affair that is exclusively his own and that he would give prorated energy revenue to Turkish Cypriots accordingly.
This attitude is also evident in the stated positions of many political leaders, who say energy issues ought not to be linked to the Cyprus problem, even if this issue has emerged as catalyst for solving it.
And here’s why. Energy giants such as Italian ENI, French Total and American ExxonMobil partnered with Qatar Petroleum have moved to the eastern Mediterranean. “A company of such importance does not take chances like that,” Amos Hochstein, the US Special Envoy and Coordinator of International Energy Affairs, told me back in 2016.
A big project like this
And his words came to mind very recently when a Norwegian expert in Athens explained to me that, if the deposits in the eastern Mediterranean are confirmed to consist of a huge reservoir, then these big companies will dictate the rules of the game. They surely have spoken with all parties involved - directly or indirectly - and no one would place such uncertainty on a big project like this.
So everyone will wait for the results of the exploratory drillings hoping to get their share, with the condition that all will adhere to the the terms of the energy with the main priority focused on a peaceful working environment.
It is no coincidence that Mr. Cavusoglu, while commenting on the Cypriot EEZ last Tuesday, said “we took measures because we don’t want anyone to get involved in an adventure.”
And on the same day, a well known columnist in Turkey, Metin Munir who hails from Cyprus, was reporting on T24 online and citing reliable sources that Mr. Anastasiades had told Mr. Cavusoglu in a recent meeting that he was ready to agree on natural gas going to Europe through Turkey.
At the same time a reliable source in Nicosia confirms that ExxonMobil will go ahead with the creation of a terminal at Vasiliko if deposits in Block 10 are found to be over 10tcf.
We shall know about the results of the drillings within 90 days of the Guterres timeframe. As for the various solution scenarios that spring up like fresh puff balls, they too will adhere to the principle that the economy is the base and politics is the superstructure.
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 18 November 2018