Economically strained conditions will force the Greek Cypriots to improve relations and enter into some kind of cooperation with Turkey after their coming elections, experts say.
The Greek Cypriots go to the ballot box today to elect a new president. Opinion polls predict Nicos Anastasiades, leader of the current main opposition Democratic Rally (DISY) party, will be elected.
There are three main presidential candidates up for election: Anastasiades, Stavros Malas of the communist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) and independent George Lillikas. Current President Dimitris Christofias is not seeking re-election. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, there will be a second round of voting on Feb. 24.
Anastasiades included in his campaign speeches healthy ideas about future cooperation between Turkey and Greek Cyprus. Ata Atun, a Turkish Cypriot academic and political consultant, told Sunday’s Zaman that any cooperation between Turkey and Greek Cyprus in the long term would likely be for economic reasons.
Firstly, Greek Cyprus seems obligated to cooperate with Turkey over natural gas transportation in the near future.“The relations [of Greek Cyprus] with Turkey are likely to improve over natural gas transportation,” said Atun. A natural gas pipeline through Turkey would be the lowest-cost option to transport gas jointly drilled by Greek Cyprus and Israel to Europe. Greek Cyprus started drilling in the disputed exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the eastern Mediterranean basin in cooperation with Israel in late 2011. Turkey claims that the areas they are drilling overlap the continental shelf licensed to Turkey for exploration by the Turkish Cypriots.
According to a recent report out of Israel, that country has already started negotiations with a Turkish company to transport the natural gas. Israel’s Haaretz daily claimed on Thursday that the Zorlu Group, one of the largest holding corporations in Turkey, is planning to build an undersea pipeline from Israeli-owned offshore gas rigs to Turkey’s south coast, which would be shortest and least expensive gas pipeline project of which Turkey has ever been part. Zorlu’s plan, according to Haaretz, is to lay a pipeline underwater from the Leviathan field, 130 kilometers off Haifa in northern Israel, to off the Turkish coast. Referring to these reports, Atun stated that “such cooperation [between Turkey and Israel] would also include Greek Cypriots in the future. They would have no another choice [but to get involved]. The best option will be [to export the gas] through Turkey.” These pipeline plans, which would see Turkey become the delivery route for the gas to Europe,“would force Israel, Greek Cyprus and Turkey to be on good terms,” he predicted.