Spoiler alert – Turkey doesn’t play by the rules

3 mins read

Underwhelmed reaction to the failure of dinner diplomacy in Berlin where the UN chief pushed the Cyprus can down the road only shows how far we have become entrenched in division.

Whatever the politicians say or don’t say there is no clear pathway to peace or reunification for an island under Turkish occupation since 1974.

The Berlin side-step was less disappointing than the last episode of The Man in the High Castle but there are consequences for not healing a Cold War wound that has festered for decades.

Cypriots are split and distanced from each other in an environment where empathy for one another’s situation is left outdoors like an unwanted baby in a basket abandoned on a doorstep.

There is no oven-ready Cyprus solution to serve the people, which was evidently clear at the Berlin dinner where Cypriot leaders sat down with Guterres to save their blushes after two years of watching paint dry.

Without a peace process to keep Turkey distracted, Ankara has deliberately gone on the offensive to show Nicosia it can have no illusions about forging ahead with its energy plans without a few spoiler alerts.

Emboldened by diplomatic inertia on the ground, Erdogan staked his claim in the East Med and the Aegean drawing his own boundaries in the sea while riding roughshod over Cyprus and Greece.

This can be of no surprise to Nicosia, Turkey started sending smoke signals about their intentions to block Cyprus’ energy race years ago.

It can use the excuse of protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots because UN-backed talks are in the deep freeze while Turkey happily takes full advantage of not recognising Cyprus as a sovereign state.

Cyprus has tried to rally the troops against such bully-boy tactics by enticing Israel and Egypt into the East Med energy mix. Brussels was also invited to approve targeted sanctions against Ankara for having drillships in Cypriot waters.

Even Nicosia becoming new best friends with Washington has not curbed Turkey’s belligerent behaviour as a regional power to be reckoned with.

If Trump can let Turkey stroll around Syria with the Russians, the US isn’t going to engage when Erdogan redraws a few lines in the sea.

Needless to say, President Anastasiades has everything under control, like a master magician he has a few legal tricks up his sleeve.

Although Cyprus can’t get into a physical fight with Turkey, it has done the next best thing in unleashing its secret weapon – taking Ankara to court.

The President revealed this week Cyprus is launching legal action at the International Court of Justice in the Hague against Turkey’s gas drilling inside Cypriot waters.

All legal means are being deployed to defend the Republic’s sovereign rights, especially after Turkey and Libya signed an MoU on maritime zones which ignore the island boundaries of Cyprus and Crete.

The Turkish-Libyan deal was deliberately designed as a legal defence against Cyprus and Greece being able to exercise their rights to economically exploit their waters.

It was a bit tricky notifying Turkey is it denies the right of Greek Cypriots to practice law but somehow the government sent a disguised fax to the Turkish embassy in Athens.

Hard to see the Hague gambit having little more than nuisance value, as Turkey does not recognise Cyprus, the jurisdiction of the court or the law of the sea.

Also, there can be no unilateral petition and even an opinion by the court – which needs UN backing — is not binding.

Seeking justice or legal retribution for wrongs suffered is not going to materialise at the Hague, and everybody knows it.

Greece took the more direct approach of expelling the Libyan ambassador in an escalation of a dispute over the controversial deal signed between Libya’s UN-supported government and Turkey.

Unlike Anastasiades, the Greek prime minister Mitsotakis can talk to the Turkish president about maritime claims but he received what the Hague can offer – nothing tangible.

Moreover, Greece doesn’t need to dabble in pointless legal persuasion when it has a credible navy and air force to protect its boundaries.

Gradually, Cyprus has drifted away from peace negotiations to find itself embroiled in a regional tug-of-war where the big guns dictate the rules of the game in the search for energy riches.

Under the circumstances taking your neighbour to court makes less sense than the finale of The Man in the High Castle where in a parallel universe the wrong side won WWII.