De Jure Games over Gas Played by Turkey in Cyprus Waters

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When Turkey set up the Turkish-Cypriot entity in the Turkish-occupied north of the island, they set it up as a de facto state. No other nation except Turkey recognised the TRNC because it was the product of force. Therefore it is not de jure (recognised in law). The UN and international community have taken a strong stand against Turkey’s actions in Cyprus. But the mentality of Turkish ‘might is right’ still prevails to the detriment of the relationship between the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots and to the detriment of the Turkish-Cypriots’ standing internationally.

Now, with all the Turkish threats and intimidation towards the international energy companies drilling for oil in Cyprus’ maritime economic zone, Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot leadership are attempting to make the TRNC into a de jure entity. They are delusionally demanding that the energy companies make a deal with them via a committee between Greece and Turkey and the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots. This would be a legal document signed by the Republic of Cyprus in the highly-unlikely event it ever materialised. Making the TRNC a de jure state.

The trick is pretty obvious. Turkish-Cypriot leader Akıncı proposes that a common Greek-and-Turkish Cypriot committee should be formed to ‘ensure both sides benefit from the (hydrocarbons) wealth.’  He adds that the issue concerns Greece and Turkey.

Akinci’s threat is clear. Make the deal – OR ELSE. Italy and France will be threatened by Turkish warships as they drill for natural gas and oil in Cyprus waters. Akinci’s actions are betraying his own country, the island of Cyprus. At least the mask is off.

President Nikos Anastasiades’ answer is that hydrocarbon development will continue irrespective of Turkish threats. Because it is another forced imposition, another threat – this time towards some of the European Union’s largest countries; Italy and France. Anastasiades is fighting by proxy for the government’s sovereign rights to develop the hydrocarbons industry, just the way it happened in the recent past with Israel and the US – which also have interests in exploring for hydrocarbons in Cyprus waters. Once again, Turkey got nowhere with its threats, because Israel started war exercises around Delek/Noble Energy’s well in Cyprus’ maritime economic zone. Turkey backed off.

Turkey never learns that nobody responds well to a threat, and the EU is not a scared and defenceless civilian in Afrin or Kurdistan. It is a world power, albeit a peaceful one. Turkey is losing friends left, right and centre, it is isolating itself from important allies at all levels. What Turkey will lose by its aggression is EU funding and benefits – even to the point of being sanctioned.

But the disputes that Turkey has started will never become de jure through these tricks. Its alliances are being eroded by Erdogan’s arrogance and egomania, and there is no nation on the earth that will give in to autocracy of his type. So the Turkish Cypriots should not feel reassured that they are under his ‘protection’. It’s like a Sicilian grocer feeling reassured that the Mafia has his back.

De facto can never be de jure under these circumstances. Only a concerted effort to reunify Cyprus under a single national identity that includes all its citizens with equal human rights can restore the Turkish Cypriots to their de jure rights. No amount of bullying will change the fact that human rights are universal – and non-negotiable. The dispute that became de facto will never become de jure, it will always be a stain on international law, an invasion and occupation by a large country of a small independent nation.