Cyprus Editorial: Let’s not miss the boat with Qatar

29 January, 2014 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

Editorial: Let’s not miss the boat with Qatar

President Anastasiades is back from Qatar in what could be described as the first successful mission abroad in his less than a year in office.
As a corporate lawyer and later a politician with leadership skills, he should know that there’s no deal until the ink has dried, as was the case with the landmark agreement signed in London two weeks ago, with the Republic now having a bigger say in what goes on within the civilian areas of the British bases.
On the political front, the visit to Doha should be considered a success, as with its small yet skillful diplomatic team, Cyprus has hopefully maneuvered its way into becoming a junior ally of one of the most ambitious power players in the region. Qatar is revered and at the same time hated for the same reason – it has become a major force within the Islamic world by openly sponsoring the Arab Spring revolts throughout the Middle East, yet maintains a liberal approach compared to other Sunni states and appears to show a good measure of tolerance towards Shiites, despite the open rivalry with Iran. It is also warm to other religions enjoying a presence within the emirate, as long as symbols are not brazenly displayed.
The fact that Qataris have been ruled by the same monarchy for a century and a half allows a good sense of stability and continuity, as evidenced by the previous Emir stepping down less then seven months ago in favour of his son. The Gulf state also enjoys the third biggest natural gas reserves in the world, which, combined with its extensive crude oil reserves and subsequent wise investments, made the emirate the richest country on the planet with a per capita GDP of about $103,000. This economic arsenal has allowed it to place its money in financial, infrastructure and political investments, indirectly placing it at loggerheads with Turkey over who has a bigger influence in the region.
This is where tiny Cyprus comes in. With the excellent relations that we enjoy with both Israel and Lebanon, as well as with Syria and Egypt once these two exit from their current crises, Cyprus has more to offer than just a launchpad for peace efforts in a conflict-ridden area.
If the Qataris decide to materialise some of the interest they expressed during Anastasiades’ visit to Doha, then they will gain a loyal friend and ally in the eastern Mediterranean and within the European Union, as Cyprus does not have the military or economic muscle to provide anything else.
But this time around, the politicians in Nicosia should show a higher level of sincerity and professionalism, than the farcical negotiations that the previous administration failed to push through for a simple parcel of land in the capital. If Ooredoo (formerly Qtel) wants to invest in Cyta, so be it. If QEWC wants a stake or full control of EAC, then why not? And if Qatar Airways is still interested in CAIR’s slots at Heathrow, why be amateurish about and not close the deal?
People in Cyprus are fed up with the pampering by politicians to civil servants and workers at semi-government organisations, to the extent that the general public would welcome major investors from Qatar, so long as they introduced high standards of efficiency and low-cost goods and services to consumers.