Cyprus a solid partner the West can rely on

2 mins read

It is worrying that despite establishing a plethora of alliances with our neighbours, to safeguard natural resources and (possibly) the island’s defence, there is no clear strategy on Cyprus’ role in maintaining regional stability.

Dogged by the open-ended efforts to resolve the island’s conflict and division that has entered its 46th year, there will be not much to celebrate on the Republic’s 60th anniversary in October.

Having survived a foreign-imposed intercommunal conflict, followed by the Turkish invasion that decimated the economy and demoralised a nation, Cyprus opted to avoid traditional alliances of the West and joined the non-aligned movement.

That eventually disappeared into thin air after the fragmentation of Yugoslavia. The Commonwealth has no political stature anymore while ties with former NAM member India have been on-and-off with no clear meaning.

Enter the promise of wealth from the potential energy discoveries in the region and Cyprus once again finds itself at the forefront of a newfound partnership that includes unlikely friends and foe, chief among them being Israel and Egypt.

Lebanon, struggling to stand on its own two feet, also has an interest in joining this unholy brotherhood, while Greece has tagged along all these years, benefitting from the doors that Cyprus has opened for it, but offering little in return as regards the ‘common defence dogma’ that was discreetly swept under the carpet.

Unable to build up land, sea or air defences to match Turkey’s bullying, intensified by Ankara’s ambitions to control the eastern Mediterranean, Cypriots remain unsure of a future where riches could also bring trouble.

However, on many occasions, Cyprus has proven to be a reliable partner, in particular to the U.S. and other NATO allies, while fellow-EU members have shown little solidarity to its easternmost outpost, which has been key in several humanitarian crises.

The recent warming of relations with Washington should be capitalised on, with members of both houses of Congress now seeing Cyprus as a stable partner in the region.

The embargo on arms purchases is lifted, cooperation in crime-fighting is ongoing and the abolition of US visas for Cypriots is in the pipeline.

It has taken decades of persistence and persuasion, primarily by the influential brotherhood in America, as well as Jewish and other lobbies to warm up to the idea of seeing Cyprus as a friend, not foe. Washington now needs to base a rapid response team in Paphos and use Cyprus as a launchpad for humanitarian assistance, just as it did with the evacuation of US, British, French and other civilians from Lebanon in 2006.

This is regardless of who needs to be evacuated, ordinary folk or US diplomatic missions.

Cyprus has proven time and again, that despite being wronged on many occasions, the humane factor keeps on surfacing and making us all proud, as with the assistance provided in 2006 to 60,000 people as part of the biggest operation of its kind since WWII.

Four years before that, Cyprus also played a key role in de-escalating the crisis with Palestinian gunmen taking control of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, while Larnaca was extensively used as a base for nuclear inspectors in 2002-2003 digging for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq

The alliances that Cyprus at present enjoys with its neighbours have proven far more valuable than the promises of support by UN Security Council permanent members.

China has a bigger design as part of its Belt and Road dream, Russia wants to keep control over Syria and has fallen in love with Turkey, and Britain is troubled with seeming to take the side of Cyprus.

France and the US are calling the shots in regional economic, geostrategic and energy affairs, with Israel and Egypt playing similarly key roles.

Perhaps it is time that Cyprus seriously considered taking its international alliance membership one level higher and joining up with those who can ensure national security now and in the future.