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New paradigm needed for Cyprus

Thursday 3 April 2008, by Cengiz Aktar

Efforts for a sustainable solution in Cyprus are revived as the spring onset. However this time there is a major difference with the previous attempts: Both parties want solutions.

In the critical process leading to the island’s membership to the European Union, former President of the Turkish Republic of northern Cyprus Rauf Denktaş and former President of Greek Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos dragged their foot for a sustainable and agreeable solution.

This time, once the critical support of the United States, of the American diplomat in charge of political affairs department of the United Nations and a few of the EU countries are added to the picture, a happy outcome gets more meaningful. Greece has so far faithfully followed the Greek Cypriot politicians; we may expect the continuation of that support to Demitris Christofias. That leaves Turkey.

The support Mehmet Ali Talat, president of northern Cyprus, received in Ankara during the March 7 contacts should continue. But most importantly, the support of Turkey should not be sacrificed to current tensions in the country. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government facing difficulty to manage the internal crisis might be forced to yield to a nationalist rhetoric. That would make it difficult to stand against the status quo and to show the determination for a solution in Cyprus. Yet one should ask about the added value of yesterday’s visit by the Turkish top military to the island.

But the developing process in Cyprus is one of the most reasonable and solid ways to revive the EU accession bid, sine qua non for both the government and the country. Today to say that Turkey’s EU path goes through Cyprus, just like for Greece at the time, is not an exaggeration; as long as we pay due attention to the issue.

Water shortage and new partnership

For instance, in the Famagusta Gazette’s Sunday edition, Greek Cyprus’ Agriculture Minister Michalis Polynikis announced that Greece would provide eight million cubic meters water to the south of the island.

Water shortage was always a problem in Cyprus and is now more severe due to climate change. According to the news, Greek Cyprus has a 50 million cubic meters water reserve and needs an additional 16 million by the end of the year. Lebanon denied the news of transferring water as the country faces shortages itself.

The water to be transferred from Greece in summer would be limited. An undersea connection between the mainland and the island may not be feasible; even the purification of the seawater can be cheaper.

Therefore there is a clear-cut solution : to transfer water to the south from the north that will receive water from Turkey. Moreover, it is possible to talk about water diplomacy within the framework of the renewed talks between the two communities.

And more importantly, the infrastructure that has been built for the last 11 years is now ready for operation. If the final agreements are struck for a water transfer project developed by Alarko Holding to carry water, the island might have enough water beginning from June or July.

The project is critical for both communities in two aspects: Five times more water capacity than what the North’s actual needs is transportable and electric cables could be installed in the same pipeline.

However parties should use their advantages as tools to reach a solution, as in the case of water and not as weapons against each other. By doing so they should be able to generate new partnership and cohabitation formulas in the island, which would go beyond the nation-state paradigm inherited from the 19th century.

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Source : Thursday, March 27, 2008 TDN

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