• Exactly seven years ago, in March 2008, in an article titled “Greek and Turkish Leaders Have Just Revived the Peace Process” I reported on the meeting between the then newly elected Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and the Turkish leader Mehmet Ali Talat. That was four years after the failed Annan Plan in 2004. Many of the commentators and others interested in this otherwise forgotten conflict had given up on a solution that would unify the island. This meeting, however, reinvigorated the negotiating parties and the international community. The experts concluded that the timing was great and that the political will was there.

     

    At the time, the BBC reported that when asked by a reporter whether he would be drinking Greek or Turkish coffee during the discussions, Christofias replied: “Cypriot coffee, we will both be having Cypriot coffee.”

     

    Alas, it was not to be. The meeting changed the mood on the island only temporarily. And Cyprus went back to business as usual. The conflict between the Republic of Cyprus in the South and the so-called Turkish Republic of Cyprus in the North—recognized only by Turkey—has the dubious distinction of being the UN’s longest peacekeeping mission. And although there has been no large-scale violence since 1974, it remains an island in turmoil.

     

    The negotiations have centered around truly intractable issues, such as control of territories, the return of refugees, and the presence of the Turkish army and Turkish settlers in the north of the island.

     

    We embarked on this story with Alexcia Chambers when she joined Diplomatic Courier as a correspondent last summer. When she decided to do a story on the discovery of hydrocarbons in Cyprus, I realized we had not discussed Cyprus in a while, mainly because no real news on the advancement of the peace process had come out of the island in recent years. But this discovery seemed pivotal.

     

    A decade ago, as a student of peace and conflict resolution I saw the island as the key to solving other bigger conflicts. I believed that if Cyprus could do it—if it could overcome its tragic past—then others could follow the example. But I lost optimism when the Annan Plan failed. While my hopes were revived in 2008 with Christofias in power, they were soon crushed again when those talks did not lead anywhere new. I believed if the European Union accession did not do the trick then nothing would. An entire generation of Cypriots had learned to live separately and last time I was in Cyprus (2006) I didn’t meet many young people that could point definitively to what the issues were or ones that did not believe the conflict was “ancient history”.

     

    Now Cyprus has newfound wealth to look forward to. An estimated 50 to 60 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil have been found off Cyprus’ southeastern coast. At a time of renewed discord with Russia and unreliable allies in the Middle East, the European Union consumers may find in Cyprus a viable and sustainable alternative energy source. If political will cannot bring the parties to resolve their issues, gas may do the trick. If shared prosperity does not bring about some resolution, what else can?

     

    Chambers gives a thorough refresher on the Cyprus conflict, the history, the issues, and what could fuel a resolution. For those who have followed the issues, they will find a refreshing take on what matters now to move the negotiations forward. For those newly acquainted with the conflict and the divided island, they will find this book to be a fascinating primer.

    As for the editors of Diplomatic Courier, we felt there may never be a better time to speculate on a positive outcome for Cyprus’ conflict.

     

    Ana Rold, Editor

    Washington, DC

    April 2015

  • FUELING A RESOLUTION

    (An excerpt)

     

    Cypriot politics as they relate to reunification have not changed much in the last 40 years, but what has changed is Cyprus’ energy supply and the tools to utilize it. Technological advancements to make use of energy findings have improved immensely in the last 15 years, allowing companies to easily locate hydrocarbons and to drill in difficult areas. In 2011, U.S. Nobel Energy found seven trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas in block 12 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The 13 blocks of the Aphrodite field, as it is called, is believed to hold up to 60 TCF of natural gas. If proven, Cyprus would become the EU’s second largest energy supplier after Norway. In addition to Nobel energy, French company TOTAL and Japanese-Italian conglomerate ENI are also set to begin exploratory drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ.

     

    Nobel Energy and the Republic of Cyprus have recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to begin the construction of a shipment terminal at Vassilikos—located on Cyprus’ southern coast—with the intention of making it a regional energy hub for the international market. Depending on the outcome of the Cyprus negotiations, Vassilikos may later become a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility. However to make an LNG terminal economically feasible, additional hydrocarbons are needed. Conveniently, 175 miles east of Cyprus, Israel has found a whopping 31 TCF of natural gas, twice the amount of natural gas proven to be in Cyprus’ EEZ. Beyond contributing to Cyprus’ national wealth, Eastern Mediterranean energy in 2014 can play the role of European coal and steel in 1957, acting as a catalyst for regional cooperation. With the resolution of the Cyprus issue, Turkey, too, can benefit from these findings.

     

    Despite the absence of a resolution to the Cyprus issue seven months into the most recent round of negotiations—before talks were suspended in October—the Republic of Cyprus and the relevant energy companies are proceeding without delay . With the companies firmly on board, now all parties involved must consider the best way to get the gas to the market. The two options under consideration are an LNG plant on the island itself or a pipeline through Turkey. This question can only be answered with a solution to the Cyprus problem, as Turkey’s involvement in regional gas plans is contingent upon a settlement between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.

     

    By making Vasilikos the energy hub for the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus could create a prosperous Mediterranean Gas Corridor. Furthermore, using Vasilikos as an LNG facility could make Cyprus the first LNG exporter in the EU . Advancing the universal interest in having access to secure and reliable sources of energy, Cypriot Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis contends that a “Cyprus based LNG facility could offer European consumers the maximum flexibility at competitive prices with zero transit risk .”

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  • About the author.

    Alexcia Chambers is a Correspondent and Contributing Editor for the Diplomatic Courier magazine and a student at The College of William & Mary. She also serves as the Secretary General of & MUN III, William & Mary’s intercollegiate Model United Nations Conference. Alexcia’s international interests were shaped in part by the American Hellenic Institute’s Foreign Policy Trip to Washington DC, Cyprus, and Greece. These interests have carried over to her work with the Diplomatic Courier, leading her to author this book on the recent developments of the Cyprus issue.

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    Alexcia Chambers