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Posted on: October 27th, 2012 No Comments

Cyprus and the Arabs: In search of Equilibrium

Evangelos Venetis
Evangelos Venetis

The Eastern Mediterranean is witnessing a dramatic shift in regard to domestic politics of the Muslim world to a type of progressive Islamic society, both Arabs and Turks, and a simultaneous partial policy re- orientation of the West in the region to meet the new challenges regarding the Islamization of regional politics and society. In this context the security of Cyprus acquires a new dimension, especially under the light of the Cyprus-Israel energy rapprochement. In another article last spring, the current author highlighted the impact that the cooperation between Greece and Israel has on the Arab word in regard to the Arab view on the Cyprus issue. Elaborating further here and given the high level of communication between Athens, Nicosia and Tel Aviv, as well as the traditionally positive relations between Greeks and Arabs, it is suggested in this paper that the Greek side, in particular Nicosia, retains the option to increase its pivotal profile for the security of the region by enhancing its constructive role in the Arab world and the Palestinian issue for the sake of regional stability and peace.

Developing an economic, energy in this case, investment presupposes geopolitical stability and security. In the case of Cyprus, in order to sustain its economic collaboration with Israel Nicosia needs to address the role of the Arabs in this volatile region. In the case of the Syrian civil war, given that there is nothing particular to win or lose, Cyprus must pursue a neutral policy.

Along with the Cyprus issue, the case of Palestine remains for more than a century the top theme in the security agenda of the region. In particular the Palestinian case is an issue of Pan-Islamic dimensions, well-interwoven with Arab nationalism. Given the rise of Islam in Turkey and the Arab states, such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, Nicosia needs to develop a new policy scheme toward the Arabs in order to contribute to the stability of the region, aiming to facilitate further dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. For instance President Christofias and Foreign Minister Marcoulli’s recent visits to Jordan and Egypt respectively are of particular importance.

Besides the solid outcome that such a Cypriot initiative may have in terms of diplomacy and security, it is also expected that Nicosia will win hearts and minds in the Arab world and Israel in a very delicate moment for Arab and Israeli politics. In short the current Cypriot-Israeli economic collaboration is a first class opportunity for Nicosia to amplify its political role in the region by working to bring together friends and foes. Cyprus is able to undertake such a task and carry it out effectively for the interests of Nicosia and the region as a whole.

Dr. Evangelos Venetis (The Middle East Research Project, ELIAMEP) is currently a Senior Research Associate in Islamic and Iranian studies at the School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies, the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. He holds a PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Edinburgh, UK.

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