VOLUME 17 ISSUE 6 December 2020

Tasos Tzionis
Ambassador/Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ret.)


As things stand, everything seems to lead to the conviction that our island will be living with the Cyprus Problem, namely the Turkish problem of Cyprus, for a long time to come.  The solution of our national problem by peaceful means will continue to be the Republic’s highest foreign policy objective.  All aspects of the Republic’s foreign policy will continue to be subjected to the ultimate and most urgent need of reaching an acceptable solution to our national problem as soon as possible.

Cyprus, while trying to achieve a solution to its Problem, managed through its foreign policy to ensure the continued international recognition of the Government of the Republic, despite the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots from the state’s organs and institutions. Ten years later, under the risk of the Republic’s dissolution as a result of the Greek Junta coup d’état and the Turkish invasion, it managed to survive as a state albeit remaining severely mutilated to this day.  In the years that followed, the Republic of Cyprus succeeded in erecting a miraculous economic edifice on the ashes, the rubble and the devastation left by the invasion, and to internationalise its problem, while maintaining high moral grounds, thus ensuring precious international support. It also managed to accede to the European Union and to be, for 16 years now, an upright and reliable Partner. Also, whilst taking regional initiative, Cyprus signed agreements for EEZ and continental shelf delimitation with Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, as well as other hydrocarbons and investments-related agreements thus, preventing bilateral border disputes and thereby providing, together with its neighbours – including Greece, but excluding Turkey – a framework that provides multinational hydrocarbon companies with the legal certainty and safety required for investments in the order of billions.

Furthermore, the Republic of Cyprus was a pioneer in the establishment of tripartite cooperation formations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, creating a vibrant, fast-growing and promising system of cooperation across a historically very hesitant or even suspicious region with regards to interstate contacts and cooperation.  This is an area which has enormous strategic value for Europe and the West in general, but also for the Middle East and North Africa. The first great institutional success of this endeavour was the creation of the EastMed Gas Forum which is, now, an international organization based in Cairo, with Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Italy as its founding member; France has asked to become a member whilst the USA requested permanent observer status. Soon will follow the establishment of a Secretariat (Secretariats in fact), in Nicosia for the tripartite formations, to further contribute to the attainment of the common objective of developing cooperation in all possible fields between the partners in each tripartite formation.

All these and many more were made possible by Cyprus following a prudent foreign policy.  The question is:  can it be sustainable?

Lately we witness a dramatic, provocative and pompous hardening of Turkey’s positions on the Cyprus Problem as well as of Turkey’s behaviour in general, towards Cyprus and Greece. This includes a combination of aggressive diplomacy and the use of military means, especially at sea.

Turkey seems, on the one hand, to seek the expansion of its military occupation in Cyprus (the opening of the fenced area of Famagusta is the most striking example on land); on the other hand, it attempts through the use of warships, seismic survey vessels and drilling rigs, and  through the threat of use of force, the usurpation of huge parts of Cyprus’ EEZ/continental shelf it claims for itself, as well as the sharing between the occupied areas secessionist entity and the Government of the Republic, of the natural resources in the rest of the EEZ/continental shelf of the Republic. Cyprus appears not to have the means to stop Turkey.

The international and EU solidarity towards Cyprus is shown almost exclusively through declarations and statements, most being ambivalent, so as to displease Turkey less. One of the guarantor powers, the United Kingdom, maintains the advantages given to it by the 1960 Treaties but acts or omits to act as it did in 1974, remaining only active in its supportive policy towards Turkey, disregarding its guarantee and other obligations under the Treaties and pretending that the process of decolonisation of our island is over. The other guarantor, Greece, does not appear to be in a position to fulfill the obligations undertaken in the ’60s, their exercise being of vital importance for, but also owed to, Cyprus, due to the Greek Junta’s traitorous coup d’état serving Turkey with a reason and an excuse for the invasion, which led to the birth of the inexhaustible source of our current problems. On the other hand the European Union may have proven to be an economic powerhouse but has not established itself as an important player on the geopolitical chessboard, remaining rather inactive in our region when unaffected or when the interests of its major member-states, especially Germany, are served.

In order to cope with the difficulties of the present and the foreseeable future, we need to have a pragmatic, efficient, combative and anti-occupation foreign policy and diplomacy; and to enlist the forces of society and the capabilities of the state towards the liberation of our country from Turkey’s occupation.  We must also be aware of the fact that the Cypriot people as a whole are at risk from Turkey’s “spirit of conquest” and its neo-ottoman aspiration for further territorial expansion.  Our foreign policy must go a long way in addressing this reality, starting as a matter of priority, with strengthening and utilising the institution responsible for the conduct of foreign policy, that is, diplomacy, something which is within the capabilities of the Republic, in order to withstand Turkey’s intensified offensive. The importance that Cyprus gives to diplomacy is disappointing; this is reflected, inter alia, in the state budget. In 2020 the Foreign Ministry was provided with only 0,69% of the state budget. No Ministry was provided with a lower budget. The MFA employs 162 diplomats who make up the Headquarters and 53 diplomatic missions, of which 3 without a diplomat whereas 29 of them with only 1 diplomat.  No further evidence is needed to demonstrate the hollowness of the words we hear, that our problem can only be solved through diplomacy and persuasion!

The solution of our national problem and the promotion of Cyprus’s national interests in the international field require a state’s vision, strategic planning and political will. The struggle for survival and freedom requires Cyprus to become (no matter how small it is) a much stronger and efficient state, as well as to regain the moral high grounds. It can pursue this by investing, inter alia, in the capabilities offered by the appropriate foreign policy. We of course mean a foreign policy and diplomacy for which the necessary resources and means will be made available and which will have the necessary human resources with the appropriate knowledge and skills to promote the achievement of our national objectives in the international field.  Everything must be done to develop and strengthen the diplomatic capabilities of Cyprus, in order to be in a much less unfavorable position than it is today to successfully deal with the Turkish bulimia, while enhancing our leadership’s confidence when sitting at the negotiation table either for the solution of our national problem or for the accomplishment of our national interests in general.