Monday, 23 February 2015

The Gas-Dream is over – Greek Cyprus looking to Iran?

An Oil and Gas Industry professional source close to this columnist, who is based variously between Turkish Cyprus and Iran, recently encountered an official of the Office of the Minister coordinating Investments and Energy Affairs, in the Iranian Embassy in South Cyprus. He, the Greek Cypriot official, was queuing for a visa prequel – apparently - to flying to Tehran for a meeting with his Iranian counter-parts in the related industry field. Quite what was going on exactly is not yet available to be published, but the question perhaps is, are the GCs considering buying in Oil and Gas from Iran, or are they seeking investments in the Iranian Oilfields? Either way it could be seen as more than just a tacit admission that the great Cypriot Oil and Gas bonanza was just a pipe dream. Contacts in Iran will perhaps know of whatever bi-lateral initiatives might be underway and this will likely leak into this column in due time.

As has been observed in analogous articles in this column of late, it would be a truly justice-laden irony if in fact it was a joint Turkish/Turkish Cypriot initiative that was to discover the sub-marine liquid gold, rather than GC/France/Israel for as we know, Total are not continuing with their exploratory activities at the moment although this may have as much to do with the collapse of the international price of oil as anything else. There could of course be far more here than meets the eye, for in as much as Greek Cyprus may be courting Iranian investment so too might the South Cyprus regime be seeking to import Iranian products, oil gas or otherwise. Quite what Washington will make of this is another thing of course given that the sanction-drivers have been primarily Republican USA historically.

The detail of delivery, either of physical products or financial investments, would be devilish indeed. Sanctions mean that a highly convoluted method would have to be employed in bringing oil/gas to Cyprus unless Turkey is involved. The same could apply in respect of financial transfers either by way of gold or other minerals as currency transfers could not, in theory take place and it is pretty unlikely that Turkey is at all likely to ‘play ball’ unless there is something in it for them such as a settlement on Cyprus, for example. The latter is virtually unthinkable in the current climate and in any event, the South Cyprus regime is rightly not recognised by Ankara. The raising of anti-Iranian sanctions is a prospect, not a certainty.

As alluded to in a recent article which was entitled Greek Cyprus – the ‘Prostitute’ of the Eastern Mediterranean, the ‘irritation’ to the south of the Green Line appear now to be ‘street walking’ in Tehran, so desperate are they to shore up what passes for an economy in their province. The EU has stumped up piles of cash, but they do want it back at some stage and Nicosia, like their elder siblings in Athens do not like having to actually adhere to the terms of the deal. Moscow too has waded in but also with terms that could see neo-Soviet vessels and aircraft in South Cyprus, something that can only add to the instability of the region. If Greek Cyprus really is courting Tehran, this is seriously going to irritate Tel Aviv and the Israeli’s are fairly active in Cyprus too. The issues of gas are indeed ‘electric’!

That a rapprochement with Iran is a matter of common-sense and could promote the re-stabilisation of the region is a given to those of us who understand why. Ham-fisted and one-sided attempts by Greek Cyprus to engage with those who are still somewhat ‘outside the temple’ could damage the work that is being done in this respect. Desperate people are apt to opt for taking desperate measures. Queuing up for a visa for what is hardly going to be for touristy reasons seems to indicate quite how desperate the government of the state of South Cyprus has become. A deal on Cyprus could and should materially improve the lot of both sides of the Cyprus Diaspora. There is simply none as blind as those who absolutely refuse to see!


Chris Green

Beşparmak Media Services

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