CYPRUS EDITORIAL: Greece needs to behave like a reliable ally

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The Greek government is so entrenched in resolving the Skopje/North Macedonia issue that Alexis Tsipras’ administration has forgotten all about the ‘other’ national issue – Cyprus.

How else can one explain that when it comes to energy matters, officials in Athens are experimenting with their own personal agendas, which begs the argument: “Surely, it would be unthinkable for any Greek to undermine the national interests of Cyprus.”

And yet, for the second time in as many months, hidden agendas have revealed the gaffes of the Greek government, initially with Tsipras changing tune as regards his unwavering support to the EuroAsia Interconnector electricity cable, and now, the Cyprus government submitting coordinates of its maritime reach west and north of the island, responding to Turkish claims of these seas after Athens continues to drag its feet on delineating the maritime median line with Ankara.

Since 2012, when the EuroAsia link was first conceived, it garnered immense support from the then Greek government happy that a fully-funded project would build the cable and end the energy supply problems that Crete faced.

Several elections later, the popular Syriza, too, supported the project with the charismatic PM himself promoting the scheme at every opportunity.

Then came the bags full of cash after Greece tried to lower its monstrous public debt by nationalising some of its national assets.

And with it came political and other forms of pressure, possibly because Athens had not realised that rescue bids came with strings attached, as was the case of Chinese investors taking control of the ‘state’ power transmission operator.

So, whereas at first, it was a love affair for the Cypriot company that undertook to build the cable, in this case with no strings attached, attitudes started to change, with Greek Energy Minister during his parliamentary arguments defending the policy U-turn, referring to the project developer as if Cyprus was a colony.

The second gaffe regards the ‘median line’ between the Cyprus and Greek Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that has not been determined, let alone agreed to, since 2007 when Cyprus first declared its maritime borders for the purpose of energy exploration and development.

Cyprus has delineated its maritime borders with Egypt (2003), Lebanon (2007) and Israel (2010), which is the first step towards finalising EEZ boundaries, while Athens has been dragging its feet, according to a comment by the Deputy Chairman of the Greek energy think tank IENE.

Detecting Athens’ passiveness, Ankara moved smartly a fortnight ago and submitted its own coordinates putting claim to maritime areas within the Cyprus and Greece EEZs, in order to justify the Turkish moves to drill within Cypriot waters that it disputes. And the Greek government was caught off guard.

Judging from these and other political blunders by Greece that have left Cyprus exposed to the mighty political firepower that Turkey wields and manipulates, even when cajoling world leaders America and Russia, and to a lesser extent the EU, perhaps it is time that Nicosia starts building meaningful relationships of its own in the immediate vicinity.

As it is to our interest to achieve true peace and friendship between the likes of Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and even the Palestinians and Syria, an interest that Greece probably doesn’t share.