The warming of relations between Turkey and recent ‘foes’ Israel and Russia, as well as the Brexit vote, should not be viewed indifferently, as both events, in their own way, should act as a wake-up call for Cyprus to finally design a strategic plan.
On the one hand, naïve thinkers wrongly assumed that after the public fallout between Shimon Peres and Recep Tayip Erdogan in Davos over the Mavis Marmara attack, that Turkey and Israel would never get together again. Well, we all know that in politics, “never say never”. On the other hand, with a simple apology over the downing of a Russian fighter plane near the Syrian border, Ankara has mended its fences with the Kremlin, having almost jeopardised billions in trade, energy pipelines and infrastructure deals, including the building of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, across the shore from Kyrenia.
And the hastily conceived comments that Cyprus should “fill the gap” to be created from the impending demise of the London financial market, proved how shallow our approach has been over the years, explaining why we have hardly attracted any serious foreign investors or funds.
Russia will continue to send millions of tourists to the Turkish resorts and will continue buying millions, if not billions worth of goods and perishables, simply because Ankara does not need to abide by EU sanctions over the Crimea stand-off. At the same time, Turkey will resume benefitting from a strategic and military cooperation with Israel, simply because they share a common enemy – Syria. After all, despite the seeming cooling of ties with Ankara, Israel has enjoyed almost brotherly relations with Azerbaijan, transferring the privileges previously enjoyed by Ankara further east to Baku.
It is clear that despite an uptick in tourist arrivals, Cyprus will never be able to compete with the bigger destinations of Turkey and Greece in attractive Russian tourists, admittedly better spenders than the British.
Let us get off our high horse and focus on what we have and not what we would aspire to get one day. For now, and in the absence of a competitive financial services sector, let’s focus on the energy sector, what with the gas discoveries, alternative sources and the ambitious electric interconnector project, while we keep ignoring a golden opportunity right under our noses, the shipping and ship-management sectors, both areas that provide stability and future prospects at all levels.