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armed troops, perpetuating the illegal secession of its puppet regime in the occupied northern part of the island, keeping one-third of the population of Cyprus displaced while exploiting their properties, not co-operating to ascertain the fate of missing persons and destroying and looting the cultural heritage of the island. In addition, in a planned effort

to alter the country’s demographic structure, Turkey has implanted in Cyprus over 200,000 settlers, this constituting another war crime according to the Geneva Convention of 1949. As a result, the number of Turkish Cypriots now living in the occupied area is far outnumbered by the total number of Turkish troops and settlers. The Turkish Cypriots also resent

the occupation, but are not able to express themselves freely, especially in what concerns a possible solution of the Cyprus problem. Cyprus’ support for Turkey’s

European aspirations – provided it fulfils its EU obligations, as all candidates are expected to – is driven by the belief that, if and when Turkey complies with European rules and norms, in particular with respect to human rights, it will become a democratic, transformed country. Such a development would benefit the wider region, the EU itself, Cyprus and, not least, Turkey’s own citizens.

A bridge between the EU and the Arab world Despite its own political problem, Cyprus can act as a bridge for dialogue for peace and stability between the EU and the countries of the Middle East. It can contribute to a better understanding of the “Arab Spring” and its significant developments and direct impacts onto the world. The EU will thus have a greater

input concerning the transformation of the wider region. Active involvement in the Middle East peace process, with Cyprus’ possible help, will indeed bring a step forward to fruition the target of Europe being closer to its neighbours, as envisaged in the European Neighbouring

Instrument (ENI) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). The island can also serve as a much-needed platform in the region for the business sector between Middle Eastern and other countries. Despite its small size, Cyprus has

proved to be a reliable actor on the international scene. Historically and more so in recent decades, Cyprus has cultivated and sustained very good relations with all its neighbouring countries. It has therefore been able to contribute indirectly in the promotion of EU principles and policies. In the advancement of the democratic and economic reforms which the “Arab Spring” countries are currently struggling towards, Cyprus has proudly taken the opportunity to be a bridge between Europe and the Arab world as a venue for their contacts, providing a concrete example of such a vision. It has proven to be a successful

virtual transfer-belt for the principles of democracy, fairness and freedom, as well as for the respect of human rights and the rule of law.

Cyprus on the energy map At the same time, Cyprus now has a unique opportunity to create an actual physical link between the eastern tip of the European continent and the EU and its Middle Eastern neighbours. This was made possible through its recent offshore exploratory drilling in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the discovery of rich hydrocarbon deposits. This discovery has also opened up

great opportunities for co-operation with the countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, both on a political and an economic level. In this respect, Cyprus has concluded agreements with a number of neighbouring countries – such as with Egypt in 2003, Lebanon in 2007 and Israel in 2010 – delineating the respective Exclusive Economic Zones in line with international law and particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to initial positive results

in Cyprus’ EEZ last year, there are approximately 100 billion Euros

worth of natural gas recoverable from one single plot. A number of major international energy companies have also expressed their interest in exploring the remaining 12 plots, in the second round of licensing for exploratory drilling in other parts of the Cypriot EEZ. In addition, Cyprus hopefully foresees that its co-operation with certain neighbouring countries will expand to include investments in infrastructure for the servicing of the production and distribution of natural gas by Cyprus, thus significantly contributing towards greater energy security and economic stability of the region and of Europe on a wider scale. Turkey, however, once again

has reacted aggressively to these prospects, making overt threats and insisting not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus or its sovereign rights to explore its own EEZ. It also has threatened with economic and other repercussions foreign companies hoping to invest in this context. A few months ago, Turkey even proceeded with exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons on land in the occupied part of Cyprus. This act violates the sovereignty as well as the laws of the Republic of Cyprus. In addition, Turkey unlawfully licensed TPAO, the Turkish Petroleum Company, to proceed with hydrocarbon activities within Cyprus’ EEZ.

The United States, the Russian

Federation, the EU as a whole and separate member-states, including the United Kingdom, have spoken out clearly, recognizing Cyprus’ sovereign rights to its EEZ and condemning Turkey’s threats and illegal actions. The Republic of Cyprus has stressed, on every occasion, that eventual benefits deriv- ing from the country’s natural resources will be enjoyed by all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, once the Cyprus problem is resolved. It is up to Turkey to stop

threatening that the talks for a solution will collapse if Cyprus proceeds with its surveys and exploitation of the said reserves. It is up to Turkey to truly contribute to a lasting solution to the

problem and not just pay lip service to it through its usual rhetoric.

Seeking international justice and stability We profoundly regret Turkey’s threats against the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey’s stance is in stark contrast with its own declared dogma of “zero problems with its neighbours” and its pursued role as a model state, a fervent defender of international law and a peace mediator in the region. It is crucial that international law prevails in this highly sensitive region, in a way that natural resources, including Cyprus’ oil and natural gas deposits, act as a catalyst for peace, stability and prosperity. Regardless of the challenges and

difficulties ahead, Cyprus continues its efforts for the reunification of its people, its economy and its institutions, for the common benefit not only of all its citizens, Greek- Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots alike, but also of the wider region and the European Union. A just and viable solution to the

Cyprus problem should be based on pertinent UN and Commonwealth resolutions and the values and principles on which the EU was founded, safeguarding the human rights and basic liberties of all its lawful citizens. The exploitation of Cyprus’ EEZ is a vital chance for greater prosperity and development for all Cypriots. The Cyprus presidency of the

Council of the European Union as of 1 July 2012 has taken off successfully. Cyprus and its House of Representatives are working towards achieving a “Better Europe” for the benefit of all European citizens and its neighbours, bridging gaps, enhancing solidarity and cohesion through promoting practical, hands- on measures and legislation so that inherited disadvantages may turn into comparative advantages for the next generations. (A separate webpage has

been set up for the parliamentary dimension of the Cyprus presidency at

The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three | 173

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