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Energy-for-peace potential

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Despite the election rhetoric about energy being a catalyst towards resolving the Cyprus problem, recent developments, especially during the past year, suggest that perhaps it is the only key to finding a solution.

There is some frustration in Brussels regarding replacing energy supplies provided by Russia before Moscow’s invasion and war in Ukraine.

On the one hand, new sources are being sought, but there is a sense of tolerating human rights abuses from many of these supplier states.

The recent announcement of delight that Azerbaijan will build a subsea electricity cable passing under the Black Sea, which will provide the EU with alternative sources, ignores the fact that future contracts for Russian gas will remain unsold in the current order of affairs.

Some are happy that Turkey’s controversial Akkuyu power station will see its first unit in commission by the end of 2023.

With the entire plant fully operational by 2026 and providing 10% of the country’s electricity needs, it will probably be exported at a higher price to EU consumers.

The fact that the Russian-built power station will be overlooked as the EU tries to detach itself further from direct Russian energy supplies.

That Akkuyu will prolong Turkey’s dependence on Russian energy is not being discussed; for now, neither is the environmental impact of managing nuclear waste and the damage to the eastern Mediterranean seabed from toxic water that will flow out of the power station.

Cyprus has been steadily discovering additional natural gas reserves in its offshore blocks, with a new announcement from the Total-Eni consortium this week of an additional 2-3 trillion cubic feet in Block 6.

Solar parks feeding into the island’s national grid are increasing. In addition, the EuroAsia interconnector will provide Cyprus’ outlet to export electricity to clean energy-hungry consumers in the EU.

Suppose Cyprus’ EU partners are serious about wanting to find alternative energy resources to break away from Russia’s domination.

In that case, they should help fast-track the safe utilisation of the island’s offshore natgas reserves, unhindered by Turkey’s military and naval bullying in the region.

Whoever takes office in February should also place the energy-for-peace plan at the top of the new administration’s agenda, perhaps acting as a beacon for other neighbours, such as Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, to speed their energy exploration and output plans.

However, a firm policy should also be set in stone, clearly stating that all Cypriot nationals, conditional to a solution, will share all the wealth from Cyprus’ offshore gas fields and other natural resources.

A model that could also help calm the explosive situation in most neighbours and act as a carrot-and-stick, luring Turkish Cypriots back to the peace talks.