Since 1963, December has become a month when Turkish Cypriots remember the bloody events that were initiated by their perennially hostile neighbours on the 21st of that month, at the behest of the leadership of their church. January too, is an important month in the context of remembrance. On January 27th 1924, Rauf Denktaş, who would become the founding father of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, was born: On the 13th January, 2013 he embraced the comforting shadows of Eternity. 28 years previously, on January 15, 1984, Dr. Fazıl Küçük, the Founding Vice President of the Republic of Cyprus and first leader of the Turkish Cypriot resistance, had succumbed to illness in a London hospital bed. The 22nd January, 1984 was the sad day when Turkish Cypriots embraced the coffin of Kücük, which was flown in from London and laid to rest at his mausoleum the very next day. Yusuf Kanli, the eminent journalist and a dear friend of this column writer, made this observation recently: Küçük and Denktaş were two great leaders of the Turkish people of the eastern Mediterranean island who never ever placed geography before their nationality. This article looks at their legacy, for neither was to live to see their homeland established and recognised.
Ever since the island was effectively partitioned as a result of the Attila Operations of 1974, the Greek Cypriots have been 'crying foul' to whichever international referee (UN) will listen and, in the ensuing years they have successfully persuaded the wider international community, that THEY are the injured party on Cyprus. Rather than behaving as the defeated entity that they (and Greece) were and being thankful for not being forced to reside in an adverse 70/30 land ratio which could easily have been the case had Ecevit not ordered the Turkish Intervention forces to pull back to their current lines, they continue to behave as 'innocent refugees' and 'victims' of the 'naughty bad Turks' who came in without warning and took all their land! Decades of talks have ended in deadlock; even the current talks about talks are foundering thanks to south Nicosia demanding a joint-statement as a prequel to actual talks. There is nothing to put on the negotiating table; in fact, there is not even a table and even if there were, the Greek side would probably complain about the grain or even the source of the wood it might derive from.
The discovery of potentially vast sources of reserves in the form of natural gas to the south-east of Cyprus has 'reignited the regional boiler' as it is not only the Greek Cypriots claim a share and ownership of this Great Creator given bounty. Irrespective of the 'interests' of foreign powers (USA, Russia, Israel et al) it is not at all unreasonable for all Cypriots to benefit from the residual fortunes that will ultimately derive from the commercial exploitation of the gas and oil fields. Furthermore, it is not beyond the realms of possibility, that viable reserves could be found to the north of the island and it is equally not unreasonable to speculate, that had the current finds been so located, the Greek Cypriots would still claim ownership of the whole, as they do the entire island. It is a trait of their ethnicity that the virtue of truth does not seemingly apply to them nor does there appear to be any imperative on their part, to adhere thereto.
But in the absense of any commonsense in respect of a fair and equitable solution on the island – the south still demands a one-nation, single sovereignty basis for talks – then the energy bonanza is surely one of common interest. In addition to the hydrocarbon finds, there is a significant opportunity to harvest energy from myriad renewable sources; namely solar, municipal waste to energy, anaerobic digestion, wind and perhaps futeristic energy conversion techniques. In roughly 2-3 years time, petrol will be flowing whilst the gas supplies will probably not emerge commercially until after 2020. The patently obvious route to to the perennially hungry, western markets is via Turkey and then trans-Europe. The formula for a wider regional peace formula is a fecund one but it requires all parties to dine heavily on a diet of pragmatism and commonsense, and therein lies much of the problem.
Additionally, Ercan Airport is another key negotiating point in a post-74 settlement for it is the islands only airport that has the potential for a runway extension of 500-750 metres which, when combined with runway widening and strengthening works, together with the provision of CAT 3c ILS Navaids (taxiway infrastructure works too), an International Airport complex as a hub for the whole island looms into view. In fine, Cyprus has a unique opportunity to become not only an energy hub for the region with all the benefits that will derive therefrom, BUT also when you add the essential dynamic of the water pipeline from Turkey, the connection will becomes complete in all respects.
Whether or not Turkey actually joins the EU, this should not have any bearing on the development of Cyprus as premised above. In fact it is more likely that this columnist embraces the Greek Orthodox Church and at the same time becomes anorexic before Turkey becomes full members of the EU; but this aside the realities of the exponential demand for energy, not only by geographical Europe but Turkey herself, means that Cyprus could be and should be a key component in the energy question.
So if the Cyprus Question is answered by solving the energy equation then let it be so and in so doing, the legacy of those luminaries who now reside in the comfort of eternities wonderous shadows, namely: Rauf Denktaş, Fazıl Küçük and even Glafcos Clerides too, can truly rest in peace. But...and here is yet another Cyprus Question: Are we in danger of creating the Aberdeen of the Mediterranean?
There will always be a question mark over Cyprus!