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Cyprus must reload strategy to thwart Turkey

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Every so often, we reach an intensified level of activity to ward off Turkey’s gunboat diplomacy with trilateral and multilateral summits making declarations, all of which Ankara continues to ignore and follow its own agenda.

The energy issue is the thorn in Turkey’s side, simply because it does not have access to the oil and gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, at least as long as it is opposed by others in the region with equal or bigger firepower.

Tiny Cyprus has no naval or other force to defend its sovereignty and offshore territory for President’s Erdogan’s oil drilling ambitions, relying instead on legal arguments, challenging Turkey’s aggressions in Brussels and in other fora, such as the UN and frameworks like the Law of the Seas. But to no avail.

Politicians in Cyprus like to pat themselves on the back, blurting out words bigger than they can chew, simply to appease public opinion “all is well on the home front”.

In all these arguments, little attention is paid to the fact that despite the “harsh” rhetoric by European officials and leaders, Turkey is a necessary partner, making itself indispensable.

This has also given Ankara some leverage, playing both Russia and the U.S., and their satellite allies, while China sits on the sidelines waiting to enhance its relations with Turkey even further.

The latest episode of Turkey’s might and the inability of anyone to curtail this arrogance was the celebration of the capture of Constantinople in 1453, a blemish in modern Hellenic history, with Greeks continuing to claim that they will one day reclaim the mighty city of Byzantium.

This argument is not new and will continue for centuries more.

But only as long as Turkey continues to have the upper hand and it pursues its regional dreams, known as ‘expansionist’.

As long as there is no genuine opposition to whatever Erdogan does (continuing from his predecessors), then Turkey will continue to act the way it does.

And will find new allies to help it realise this dream.

With Israel undecided, if it wants to have good relations with Ankara, that seemingly evaporated in recent years, but maintains excellent ties with Turkey’s satellite Azerbaijan, the only other force to be reckoned with is Egypt, that finds itself surrounded by pockets of Turkish intimidation on its doorstep.

What Cyprus needs is genuine allies and true friends that it can rely on.

The US, Russia and China will not pay much attention, as long as Cyprus has nothing significant to offer in return, while solidarity among EU member states was tested and failed for the umpteenth time during the coronavirus epidemic.

Cyprus needs to be proactive and build up genuine relations of its own with its neighbours, not just on the diplomatic level, trade, tourism or other areas of cooperation.

Perhaps it ought to start from redefining its relations with Greece, undoubtedly the closest ally.

But Athens, too, must stop looking at the Great Island as a colony and take this relationship one step higher to one of political equality, where decisions need to be taken and agreed upon for true mutual benefit if such a national notion exists.

Only then will Turkey take us more seriously.