The Cyprus government is against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to a carefully-worded statement from the foreign ministry.
“Cyprus maintains the view that the final status of Jerusalem, the holy city of the three monotheistic faiths, must be determined through negotiations in the framework of the Middle East Peace Process,” said foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides.
The diplomatic language needs reading between the lines. Cyprus – which recognises the state of Palestine – also needs to avoid offending the US and Israel, which are strategic allies in its efforts to exploit offshore hydrocarbon reserves and a counterweight to Turkey’s aggression. If relations turn sour because Cyprus directly criticises Trump’s decision, it doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to see that Trump could unilaterally decide to recognise the TRNC as well.
This is dangerous ground. The Middle East conflict has led to human rights abuses, just as the Turkish invasion led to the human rights abuses in Cyprus. The power of recognition means a lot in peace negotiations. It implies validity. But what is being validated in this case? Violence and human rights abuses? The infliction of poverty, economic struggles and settlers on an entire population? If an aggressive nation is recognised and supported by world powers like the US, the ethical issues are overshadowed and ‘might becomes right’. The Palestinians even had to struggle through world organisations and courts to be recognised as a state. The whole situation is a powder keg.
“The full respect of UN Security Council Resolutions remains Cyprus’s firm position,” said the foreign ministry.
Here is another carefully-worded point. The UN wants peaceful negotiations to take over hostilities in the Middle East. In Cyprus, the UN keeps the balance and status quo and has multiple resolutions against validating the pseudo-state and against Turkey’s invasion. Can these all be written off at the drop of a dime and Trump’s whim? The answer is ‘yes’, because he leads the most powerful country in the world. And what about the 200,000 displaced people, the 50,000 unwanted Turkish settlers, the stolen lands and human rights abuses against the Greek Cypriots? What about the tightly controlled Turkish-Cypriot community, which currently lives in fear of Erdogan’s whims and witch hunts?
A straw poll we did on Twitter reveals that people think that the situation is unpredictable and largely negative. Few think that Israel will act responsibly and keep moving towards peace with the Palestinians. The hope that Hamas’ terrorist activities will be checked has just been dashed unceremoniously to the ground. In the wider regional context, Trump has just stirred up more trouble because Iran and Saudi Arabia are already facing off in Lebanon and Yemen. Hamas is riled up, and the Sunni versus Shi’ite rivalry threatens to worsen. Just as Syria appeared to be under control, Trump took the step that could destabilise the Middle East once again.