Cypriot Natural Gas and the Eastern Mediterranean: Between Crisis and Cooperation

Natural resources have long been the cause of both development and conflict. Of course, in resource-abundant countries natural resources have, more often than not, caused conflict rather than development. However, the same cannot be said for third countries, often colonial powers, which exploited such resources abroad for their own development.



This is one of the reasons why natural resources have been often referred to as a “curse”; an additional reason is the implications that the existence of natural resources has for the management of the economy (e.g. high prices, low exports, etc.).

Cyprus has itself effectively acquired the status of a resource-abundant country when recently, on what was called “an historic” day, the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias announced that the Block 12 of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “contained an estimated 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas”. As “the second-largest hydrocarbon discovery in Europe in more than a decade”, the Cypriot natural gas paves the way for not only local but also regional development and cooperation. However, there is always the flip side of the coin and that is the international rivalry that may be triggered due to the alteration of the regional balance of power as a result of this and other developments. Below I briefly examine the features of the limited crisis surrounding the Cypriot natural gas and the Eastern Mediterranean more generally, as well as the features of a potential international cooperation at the regional and trans-regional level. The goal is to determine whether bilateral disputes could be bridged, given the political and geopolitical realities at hand, to the end of avoiding a crisis escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • The Features of the Crisis

The drillings for the discovery of natural gas by the Republic of Cyprus in late September, 2011, came in the midst of greater regional instability as, for example, the Arab revolts were in progress, the Turkish-Israeli relations were in decline, and the Kurdish attacks in Turkey were increasing. Furthermore, the long-standing Cyprus problem is an essential component of this crisis as Turkey, according to its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, considers the internationally unrecognized (apart from Turkey) “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) as “a state of whom..[it] is the protector”, and adds that it “assume[s] an aggressive attitude if a country attempts to unilaterally use…[its] natural resources”. It is within this context that Turkey justified its threats for naval action against Cyprus, the initiation of gas explorations close to Cyprus’ drilling area, as well as the delimitation of its continental shelf with TRNC.


Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 3  No. 2


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