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

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Greek Cyprus – the ‘Prostitute’ of the Eastern Mediterranean

Possible locations for Russian Air-Bases in south Cyprus

Greek Cyprus has announced the country is ready to host Russia at its aviation and naval bases, marking a split with its fellow EU members, whom are in a deep conflict with Moscow over the Russian military activities in Ukraine, which has led to a violent insurgency within the country. Nato member France, and Israel in particular, both demand access to the airbase in question which is known as Andreas Papandreou Airbase, which was constructed by the southern Cypriot government jointly with Greece. 

Needless to say, this has drawn marked disquiet from Britain and other EU members but for differing reasons. That Greek Cyprus (and Greece) is aligning themselves ever more closely with Moscow has to be a cause of major concern. Their separate and conjoint raison d'être of course is Russian money; in effect, they are once again selling themselves to Russia.

Cyprus historically is an island of huge strategic importance and since time immemorial the island has been fought over, conquered, lost, traded and ultimately divided for that reason. Turkey’s continued military presence is not just to provide security to Turkish Cypriots, while Britain’s presence since 1878 is not wholly in fulfilling her role as a Guarantor Power of the arguably defunct Republic of Cyprus either. It is for strategic purposes primarily and this is also the reason that Russia and Israel want to gain a military foothold there. South Cyprus will let them too – in return for cash, of course. 

As yet, we have not heard a reaction from Ankara as to Turkey’s position on a Russian military presence so close to her coastline. Syria is only 100 miles away too and whilst Russia already have a deep-water port there, airbases on Cyprus will further aid Moscow’s regional ambitions which are a part of Putin’s expansionist policies.

Putting Britain’s case, top British envoy, the British High Commissioner to Cyprus, Damian Roberick Todd who has already had spats with south Nicosia over the gas exploration ‘crisis’ in the region, has highlighted the position of the EU in relation to Russia and the actions of south Cyprus are out of line with voted EU decisions. As ever, south Cyprus ‘olive-pick’ the pieces of the EU that suit it and ignore those that it does not such as austerity measures that are in place because of the fiscal incompetence of the Greek Cypriots. The latter is reflected in Athens too where the newly elected government are not only tearing up the wholly vital austerity regime there, but also aligning closely with Moscow. There is surely a case for suspending the EU membership of both Greece and their cultural siblings, Greek-Cyprus.

South-Cyprus have flirted with Russia in search of soft loans in recent times, although in 2013 when Greek Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris visited Moscow to sell his and his state’s soul to the Russians, when air bases were then on offer, the Russians did not fall for his dubious charms. His dance did not entice nor lure the Muscovite lucre; what was on offer was not juicy enough. Now the south-Nicosia ‘pole-dancers’ are weaving their sordid art once again with similar financial ambitions. This time the Russians are ‘crawling along the Greek-Cypriot kerbs’ because circumstances are now much changed.

By way of its proxy on Cyprus, the socialist Akel Party, Russians have always been active in Cyprus diplomacy and local politics. There are some who will claim that the July 15 Greek induced ‘Colonels Coup’ against Archbishop Makarios, as well as the July 20, 1974 Turkish intervention that the coup triggered, were both a part of a concerted effort to prevent the island from drifting towards the Soviet camp. Furthermore, a Russian military presence in terms of aircraft will inevitably bring both supply and naval vessels too. There is also a Greek-Cyprus/Israeli defence agreement in place since 2010 so how will that be affected?

Whatever the outcome of south-Cyprus ‘street-walking’, the one certain thing is that Turkish Cypriot isolation will be no closer to ending for Moscow has traditionally backed the Greek-Cypriot cause. Cyprus is rammed with Russians now in both the north and the south of the island and no doubt influence much in commercial terms at least in general. One can only imagine that Turkey may bolster her forces in Northern Cyprus to enhance her own security. Dangerous times indeed on the ‘island of tears’.


Chris Green

Beşparmak Media Services