South Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides has outlined Cyprus’ positions on geo-strategic issues in the sensitive region of Eastern Mediterranean.
Addressing a gathering at the Brookings Institution on the ‘Geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Cypriot Perspective’, Kasoulides, in his remarks, offered his views on a range of issues that are shaping South Cyprus’s role in Europe and across the rapidly evolving Eastern Mediterranean region.
He also reached out to Turkey and said a big step to restore confidence is needed to change the climate to resolve the Cyprus problem. (Ioannis has already suggested opening up Famagusta for Greek Cypriot residency in exchange for trading rights for the North).
He told the audience that “the problem of Cyprus should not be seen as an isolated problem. It is not a problem which concerns only the interested parties but it is a problem very much related to the stability and the security of the volatile region of the eastern Mediterranean which is among the most security prone areas in the world”.
In his remarks, Kasoulides covered South Cyprus’ relations with countries in the region, the government’s views on the situation in Syria, as well as the role which energy issues play, the discovery of the hydrocarbons in South Cyprus’ EEZ as well as the country’s relations with Turkey and the Cyprus problem.
Kasoulides underlined the importance of Cyprus’ geographic location which creates great challenge for the island but also makes the country’s foreign policy creative, despite its small size.
Kasoulides said the new government of South Cyprus wants to be an important partner for the US and the EU.
“We aspire to be partners to the EU and US regarding trade, shipping and investments,” he said, adding that “the recent hydrocarbon discoveries is a very important new development in our region. This, he said, can contribute to EU energy security and the diversification policy of the EU but it is also the fact that Cyprus is situated at the strategic point of entrance, at the Suez Canal for gas exports to Asia Markets”.
Kasoulides said “we will exploit our gas resources. The demand remains high, particularly in Asia” and stressed, “I don’t think that humanity is permitted to sit down and wait until Cyprus settles its problems with Turkey in order to proceed in exploiting this very important material”.
He assured that “we take take action on natural gas, follow the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea and international law and we anticipate by the end of this decade the first important revenues from this issue”.
This natural gas has brought important new and tangible ways for Cyprus to work together with its neighbours. “We are the only country not party to the Middle East problem, [we are] not fundamentalist, [and are the only neighbouring country that is a] member of the EU. We are the most predictable next door neighbour of Israel. The energy issues become the tangible area from where we can work together and prove what we have been saying about this”.
The only way that Cyprus can lose its predictability is if there is a bad solution to the Cyprus problem, allowing Turkey to enter its internal affairs.
He assured the audience “that what we are doing with Israel was never seen and will never be seen as a zero sum game so far as Turkey is concerned. As we share common values with Israel, this should never be seen as an anti-Turkish front,” he added.
He said Turkey has tried through its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to present a zero problems policy with its neighbours, adding “I believe that this policy has not succeeded in the end, on the contrary there are problems with all neighbours.
So Turkey now is trying to convince everybody that it wants to turn again towards the EU and acknowledges that the Cyprus problem is an impediment for this and I hope that Turkey understands what an anachronism it is nowadays to occupy 37% of the territory if Cyprus, and 57% of its coastline, a European country,” he concluded.