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Cyprus pawn sacrificed in EU-Turkey end game

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European Union leaders stopped short of imposing sanctions on Turkey at the leaders’ summit on Thursday.

They delayed the issue by a further three months with Brussels waiting for guidance from Washington after January by which time Joe Biden will have seated himself at the White House.

Despite all the rhetoric, Ankara outmanoeuvred the protestors, namely Cyprus and Greece, by recalling its oil and gas exploration vessel to its home port.

This gesture of ‘good faith’ will probably last a couple of weeks, until Turkey opens a channel of communications with the U.S. to avoid more severe sanctions over its purchase of the Russian S400 missile system designed to track and down US-made F35s.

Manfred Webber, leader of the conservative EPP group in the European Parliament, raised his tone of condemnation of Turkey’s provocations in the Cyprus EEZ, challenging Greece’s maritime boundaries and continental shelf, and controversy over opening up Varosha.

He knew full well that EU leaders and the Commission would try to buy time, to see if the matter could be resolved diplomatically.

That is, after all, what Greece also aspires to. It has been observing Erdogan’s systematic enhancement of his armed forces, especially within the ‘Blue Homeland’ strategy and is wondering if it could resist a standoff with Turkey, especially after the latter’s military expeditions in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabagh.

Athens has a personal stake in supporting dialogue with its eastern neighbour with the natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan travelling over Asia Minor to Greece, multi-million commercial and shipping investments, and tourism. And Turkey knows it.

The hype created in Cyprus was, once again, unrealistic, probably aimed at soothing public objection to the re-active tactic by politicians, instead of taking a pro-active strategy.

Cyprus was used as a pawn on the European chessboard with fellow member states reaffirming the lack of solidarity, as has been shown in the weak efforts to tackle the refugee and migrants’ issue, the coronavirus health crisis, and the centre-versus-periphery arguments on how to revive the European economy.

Perhaps it is time for Cypriot politicians, their advisors, and the entire diplomatic service to re-open their textbooks on ‘Regional Geopolitics 101’ and see what can be done to counter Turkey’s aggression in the area.

It is destabilising neighbours and throwing a spanner in the works of energy projects.

Cyprus has a significant role to play in the area and in its inability to match Turkey’s military might, should adopt the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ approach to make Nicosia a crucial emissary in the region and irreplaceable outpost for the entire Union.

For now, we seem to be content with impulsive actions, a smokescreen over the poor handling of the COVID crisis and securing enough funds to keep civil servants paid up until the May parliamentary elections.

After that, it will be a game of rolling the dice to see how we will cope with the virus and if we will safely and surely revive tourism.