Cyrpus, the small nation tied up in crises in Gaza and Ukraine | EUROtoday

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Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 shocked all of Europe. Countries as soon as caught within the Soviet orbit fumed over the Kremlin’s neo-imperialism. Major powers in Western Europe reckoned with their lack of preparedness for President Vladimir Putin’s land battle of alternative. But in a tiny island within the japanese Mediterranean, the invasion unleashed a extra sophisticated set of emotions and outcomes.

“The memories came back,” Constantinos Kombos, the overseas minister of Cyprus, informed me, gesturing to his personal nation’s historical past 50 years in the past when Turkey launched an invasion and occupation of Cypriot territory that continues to be to this present day. “We are a victim of invasion and aggression, too.”

The 1974 Turkish intervention adopted a interval of political turbulence and communal strife within the former British colony, which led to Turkey justifying its transfer on the premise of defending Turkish Cypriots. A 3rd of the Mediterranean island — roughly, the majority of its north — has splintered off right into a breakaway republic that’s solely acknowledged by Ankara and patrolled by tens of 1000’s of Turkish troops. Some 200,000 individuals have been displaced.


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Kombos’s authorities hopes to revive a political course of that might result in the reunification of the island, however diplomacy faces main roadblocks, with the Turkish facet insisting that the political entity within the north be acknowledged as an impartial state — a dedication rejected by Cyprus, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States.

“There is no point in negotiating with a party that does not accept our sovereignty,” the president of North Cyprus informed reporters earlier this week.

Kombos linked recognition of the Turkish-influenced entity with the Kremlin’s efforts to normalize its unlawful annexation of Ukrainian areas below Russian occupation. “We will be legalizing an act of aggression just because time has passed,” he informed me throughout an interview in Washington, the place he was visiting. “And this relates directly to what’s happening in Ukraine.”

The Cypriot place on Russia has undergone a putting shift. For years, Cyprus was a well-liked vacation spot for Russian pursuits, enterprise and in any other case. Russian oligarchs channeled their wealth via Cypriot banks and different ventures, profitable a monetary beachhead inside the European Union — Cyprus turned a full member state in 2004 — regardless of among the shadowy origins of their funds. Those dealings have been stemmed over the previous decade within the wake of the 2013 European debt disaster, with Cyprus severing enterprise ties with tens of 1000’s of Russians and suspending myriad financial institution accounts.

Kombos acknowledged E.U. sanctions on Russia have been exhausting for Cyprus, slicing off important flows of Russian vacationers in addition to marking a rupture in a protracted historical past of connections to Moscow. “This is a ‘back to the future’ moment,” he informed me, referring to the return of Cold War-era polarization. But he argued that the Cypriot alignment with different E.U. nations on Ukraine “puts us clearly now on the right side of this divide.”

Over the weekend, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides can be among the many many world leaders attending a Ukraine-led peace convention in Switzerland. Kombos stated the gathering would mark a helpful second for E.U. nations and their counterparts to start out considering via how the battle “ends.”

Closer to house, the problem is as thorny. Christodoulides got here to energy final 12 months partly via an electoral marketing campaign vowing to deliver new momentum to the negotiations over the “Cyprus problem,” which have been stalled since 2017. Kombos stated the “negative absolute” place of the Turkish facet makes issues troublesome, however he hopes regular diplomacy can prevail, and that the enticement of political incentives from the European Union to Turkey might assist create a diplomatic opening.

Absent progress, the lone “frozen conflict” — although Kombos rejects the notion that it’s “frozen,” pointing to provocative Turkish troop deployments — within the European Union might show all of the extra intractable. In the north, overseas passport holders from international locations comparable to Israel, Russia and Iran have been shopping for up actual property, together with properties that technically nonetheless belong to Greek Cypriots displaced since 1974. “What has been a very complex problem has become even more complex because we are adding layers to our complexity,” Kombos stated.

“The prospects of a solution that everyone can accept are gradually fading,” declared U.N. Secretary General António Guterres earlier this 12 months.

But Cyprus’s high diplomat desires observers of his nation to see past its conflicted standing. He factors to a thriving start-up financial system and the multinational partnerships throughout the Mediterranean which will finally drive the cultivation of profitable undersea fuel deposits off Cyprus’s coast, tapping sources that might increase Europe’s vitality autonomy. And Kombos additionally spotlighted the pivotal function Cyprus has performed as a hub for humanitarian help and logistical operations through the battle in Gaza.

Though the U.S.-built maritime pier into Gaza has confronted extreme weather- and security-related setbacks in enabling the supply of humanitarian help, Cyprus helped facilitate the switch of products from its shores. Kombos, furthermore, added to the refrain of worldwide officers urging Israel to unblock land-based entry to the embattled territory.

“We have been calling for the opening of the land crossings because that’s the more efficient way to do it,” Kombos stated. “But in the meantime, we offer to the international community an option that it didn’t have before.”

The present disaster, he added, has been a boon for U.S.-Cypriot ties, “because perhaps for the first time we have showcased that we can be useful.” Cyprus, stated Kombos, who meets Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, is “in between the Middle East and Europe and we have an advantage of being able to talk to everyone in a way that is honest and transparent and predictable.”

At a fraught, unstable second, that issues. “One thing we can predict for certain in our part of the world is that we will have another crisis and then another crisis and then another,” he informed me.