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Cyprus diplomacy must ‘be like water’

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Cyprus went to the big boys’ party at the European Council calling the shots on Turkey before having to eat humble pie dressed as a victory after climbing off its high horse.

Small island syndrome had rather embarrassed the EU 27 in its desire to impose sanctions on Belarus officials for orchestrating a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Minsk after rigging the election result.

Ironically, Nicosia did not recognise the election result which kept Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in power, but it was holding up sanctions in a game of brinkmanship by demanding action against Turkey.

There was an opportunity for Cyprus to take a stand among the heavy lifters in European politics over being bullied by Ankara’s gunboat diplomacy.

Taking Belarus hostage made the European superpowers appear weak and helpless. Not a good look for the much-vaunted EU solidarity.

Before the Brussels summit, President Nicos Anastasiades said he was going to defend European principles and values.

Presumably, his fellow leaders had lost their way from the path of enlightenment, resorting to old habits of greed and self-interest when the European experiment was about togetherness.

Anastasiades had said on more than one occasion that he expected tangible results from Brussels after Cyprus had its sovereignty violated.

There could be no “double standards” when it came to Cyprus which is why Belarus was used as leverage as Nicosia waved its veto in the air.

Such an embarrassing stand-off in the rarefied air of EU trade-offs could not last for long.

Even with France and Greece offering moral support from the cheap seats, Cyprus wilted under the pressure of being the spoiler in the pack.

The hand-twisting over dinner was enough to convince Cyprus to back sanctions against 40 Belarus officials in exchange for another strongly-worded dose of EU support.

Cypriot diplomacy had overstretched its reach by upsetting some powerful players it will need in the long game.

On probation

Anastasiades talked-up the decision of the EU Council saying there was a clear warning to Turkey that it was on probation until December.

He said there was a clear way forward on what was expected of Turkey and what would happen if it continued to be a belligerent neighbour.

In essence, the EU27 raised its voice a notch for a more serious tone to show it wouldn’t flinch at the option of putting Turkey in the sanction’s jailhouse.

Certainly, the last thing Cyprus wanted was another symphony of words that Turkey will turn a blind eye to.

The battered can gets kicked further down the road with Nicosia looking like a stray dog that has lost its owner.

Whichever way you paint the summit outcome, there is a nasty stain that won’t come out in the wash.

As a veteran slugger, Turkey saw those punches coming, it deftly sidestepped the Cypriot uppercut in agreeing to a dialogue with Greece to defuse tensions in the East Med.

No matter how sincere the gesture, Turkey made it all the more difficult for the EU to go all Chuck Norris on the sanctions front.

Punishing Turkey while it sought to settle its differences with Greece would have been worse than provoking a bear with a sore head.

Turkey also understands the EU is not going to go out on a limb for Cyprus which backed itself in a corner by seemingly allowing a dictator to smash heads in Belarus.

Granted, the official line is going to be that Cyprus was only interested in the process of finding mutually acceptable outcomes. It was not the Punisher.

Anastasiades was keen to explain he did not feel alone at the Council as all the EU leaders stood by him (as they did with Julius Caesar).

He contended that any disagreements were over the “methodology” for achieving the goal of Turkey ending its illegal actions.

Pinocchio could not have said it better himself.

Brussels may have a toolbox full of possible sanctions for Turkey but they are hardly going to act as an effective deterrent.

Ankara will take it on the chin and move on to the next round.

After Cyprus failed at the Chuck Norris approach to realpolitik, maybe it should take time out and learn from the true master Bruce Lee.

Be like water – empty your mind, become formless, react, and adapt.