Could Cyprus Cause a War?

Many More Dangers in Cyprus Than Meet the Eye

Eric Margolis

by Eric Margolis: The
Iraq Disaster Haunts America

they will never be a world power, the Cypriots have decided to settle
for being a world nuisance.

~ George Mikes,
Hungarian writer

Cyprus is a
big pain in the neck for one and all. Its banks are bust due to
reckless lending to Greece. The sunny island is a beehive of tax
evasion, money laundering, dodgy trade and espionage.

Now, the threatened
bankruptcy of Cyprus has triggered the latest European financial

Russian businessmen
and the Russian Mafia have some 30 billion euros stashed away in
Cyprus. Russians make up the second largest biggest cohort of Greek
Cyprus’ 869,000 people. Some 260,000 ethnic Turks live in the isolated
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which no one but Turkey recognizes.

A 10 billion
euro EU bailout is in the works. But the Germans, who will have
to fund most of the rescue, are loathe to rescue the Russian mob,
and who can blame them?

So the Germans
seem set on punishing the wayward Greek Cypriotes and their Russian
pals by trying to impose a tax on local bank deposits. This ham-handed
plan triggered outrage and fear across Europe, and may ignite a
run on banks in Cyprus and Greece. Moscow is furious.

But there’s
much more to the Cyprus crisis than its dubious banks. Cyprus has
bedeviled Europe and world diplomacy since 1974, then Greek Cypriot
far rightists staged a coup and sought union – or “enosis”
– with mainland Greece. Turkey promptly intervened with 30,000 troops
to protect Turkish Cypriots in the north. Many Greeks fled or were
expelled to the south.

Europe and
the UN have been trying to sort out the Cyprus mess ever since.
After decades of mind-numbing negotiations, former UN chief Kofi
Annan proposed a sensible deal in 2004 for a Greek-Turkish federation.
Turks accepted, but Greek Cypriots blocked it. Britain, which has
two important air bases in Cyprus, backed the status quo.

In the same
year, the EU committed the grave error of admitting Cyprus as a
member without first insisting that Greek Cypriots agree to a peace
deal and Greek-Turkish federation.

Northern Cyprus
was left in limbo while the south became part of the EU, assuring
the island’s ugly dispute would be come part of the European Union.
Cyprus should never have been admitted to the EU.

Europeans who
opposed Turkish membership in the EU used Cyprus as a pretext to
delay admission, infuriating Turkey.

After decades
of patient work developing normal relations after centuries of conflict,
Greece and Turkey are again up in arms again over Cyprus. Their
dangerous problem of overlapping air and sea claims in the Aegean
has revived – just when Greece must slash its bloated military budget.

It gets worse.
Very large underwater gas deposits were recently discovered between
Cyprus and Israel. Both Cyprus and Israel, who are to jointly develop
them, could become energy exporters. They have become very close

“Not so
fast” say Cyprus’ Turkish minority. ‘That gas also belongs
in part to us!” Ankara insists the gas must be shared and has
sent ships to back its claim.

Egypt, Lebanon and Syria are also advancing claims to the “Aphrodite”
gas field off Cyprus -shades of the tense South China Sea. But most
likely to clash are the Turks and Israelis.

Turkey is still
boiling mad over the Israeli seizure of a Gaza bound relief ship
in 2010 and the killing of nine Turks.

Israel has
emerged as a major backer of the embattled Greek government, using
its influence in Washington and financial clout.

increasingly interested in the Greece-Cyprus-Syria region, says
it will keep a nine-ship squadron in the eastern Mediterranean as
Moscow’s worries over Syria, now under western siege, grow by the
day. Moscow is hinting that it mighty bail out Cypriot banks in
exchange for the lion’s share of the “Aphrodite” gas fields.

All the elements
are in place for a very nasty, dangerous multi-party confrontation
in the eastern Mediterranean. The EU could have pre-emptied this
danger by using a bank rescue of Cyprus to force Greek Cypriots
to make a sensible peace deal with their Turkish neighbors. And
by forcing Cyprus to fairly share the offshore gas bonanza with
neighboring states. But it probably won’t.

22, 2013

Margolis [send
him mail
] is the author of
at the Top of the World
and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World
. See his

© 2013 Eric Margolis

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