Cyprus, which doesn’t have so much importance in regard to the area it covers, represents importance depending on its geopraphic location. Parallel to the mentioned geopolitical location, Cyprus played a critical role between Europe, Asia, and Africa in history. So many states have had a profound desire to obtain Cyprus due to this unique location and transit trade routes. Parallel to this, Cyprus has hosted many civilizations such as Roman Empire, Venetians and Ottomans Empire. Cyprus was a part of Ottoman Empire from 1571 to 1878. Unlike previous, Ottomans did their utmost to provide peace and equlality. During this period, Ottomans peopled this island with Turks from Anatolia.
However, this peaceful environment did not last long and Cyprus was leased by Britain on July 4, 1878. Following this year, although Cyprus legally remained Ottoman land, it turned out to be Britain’s military base. Britain formally declared to annex Cyprus on November 5, 1914 and along with the Treaty of Lausanne the British Rule over Cyprus was formally accepted. After the British rule the balance of population of Cyprus changed radically. Most of Turks immigrated, and while the population of Turks decreased gradually, the population of Greek Cypriots increased largely.
In addition to this, the church of the Greek Cypriots organized an unofficial referendum on enosis which directly provoked Turkish Cypriots. After the World War II, Greek Cypriots, focusing on enosis, started to struggle with Britain; and Turkish Cypriots requested Taksim, refusing enosis. During 1950s, the mentioned dispute made relations tense between Turkey and Greece. Until 1959, parties debated on the governance of Cyprus. That issue was solved after Zurich Agreements and London Conference held in 1960. After Zurich Agreements and London Conference; the establishment of an independent Cyprus, including the construction of a bicommunal state and the protective participation of Greece and Turkey; was agreed upon. On 16 August 1960, Cyprus became an independent and sovereign state.
The independence period made it clear that due to friction and discomfort between Greek and Turkish Cypriots peaceful coexistence was a dream for both sides. Upon negative development Turkish Troops began operations, placed Northern part of Cyprus under its control and divided Cyprus into the Turkish part in the North and the Greek part in the South in 1974. The Cyprus issue became much more complicated after the Greek Cypriots’ application to the EC for full membership in 1990. On 30 March 1998, the EU formally launched the enlargement process with Cyprus. The Annan Plan, developed for the settlement of Cyprus issue before Cyprus full membership in the EU, could not find a solution to the problem and the issue of Cyprus still occupies one of the most important items of international and political agenda.
This paper is aimed at answering the question “Why this islandhas represented extreme importance in all periods, for the states in Mediterranean region, and also for the great powers. In order to explain the importance of Cyprus, first of all the strategic location that Cyprus has and the strategic importance that the Mediterranean region holds will be studied through various examples. Following that general overview, the issue “What does Cyprus mean after the Cold War period?” will be disscussed. The disscussion will be established upon three dimentions; firstly, importance of Cyprus in regard to the newly-emerged security architecture – secondly, importance of Cyprus in regard to the new energy lines, and thirdly, importance of Cyprus in regarad to the new Middle East and Balkan politics. In the last part of the paper, the strategic stand of Cyprus island in terms of the EU and Turkey will be examined.
Systematic Overview of Cyprus Geography
Cyprus has central location in the world, and it has an equal distance in regard to Europe, Asian and Africa. In the past, Cyprus was regarded as the vital strategic and trade headquarter by the states which reguested to pass through the Middle East region. The states who held Cyprus in history, could control Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt and the region from Lebanon to Iran, and the actors, that could not obtain Cyprus via Turkey, benefited from the island for the maximization of their goals.
It is also on the line where water transit routes come across. Neither a regional power nor a global power, trying to play a role in the Middle East, Aegean, Suez, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf, should neglect Cyprus since it has the capacity of influencing each one of those directly. Cyprus is signficant for those since on the one hand, eastern part of the island is closely related with the Middle East, on the other hand, western part of the island has a critical location for the strategic parameters in Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans and North Africa. Moreover, Cyprus might be a kind of military concentration area, an important base for air forces, a location for the settlement of long-range misilles and provides some advantages for intelligence activities.
Strategic importance of Cyprus in the context of strategic importance of Eastern Mediterranean
While Eastern Mediterranean controls the large area where Eorope, Asia and Africa Continents represents proximity, Cyprus controls Eastern Mediterranean. Those controls are critical in terms of security and politics. When the oil and gas reserves, appeared in the Caspian Sea after 1990 is taken into consideration, Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus should be regarded as an important transit route for the import and export issues related with that region. In other words, Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus have the ability of controlling energy centers and pipelines connected with those centers. Besides, Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus is one of the most significant geographies which can supervise sea trade running over Suez and Black Sea. Moreover, water centers and water transportation routes, to be proposed for solving water contraversy in the Middle East Region in the future, will also be on area which Cyprus could easily control. In addition to that, East Mediterranean and Cyprus, which could supervise crucial trade routes and energy centers, directly provide political advantages for the actor having word on East Mediterranean and Cyprus. Last, Cyprus also represents importance for the control of the small rouge states and terrorist groups surrounding Eastern Mediterranean. To sum up, those functions of Cyprus have direct impact on regional stability and an indirect impact on global stability.
Strategic Importance of Cyprus after the Cold War Period
Under this title we will examine the strategic importance of Cyprus following the Cold War Period in the terms of three different aspects:
1. Importance of Cyprus in the New World Order in regard to the new global-regional security strategy.
2. Importance of Cyprus in regard to the newly-emerged energy lines.
3. Importance of Cyprus in regard to new Middle East – Balkan Politics.
1. Importance of Cyprus in the New World Order in regard to the new global-regional security strategy:
Cyprus, which represents crucial importance in world politics in any period, did have some additional strategic features after the Cold War Period. Multi-faceted global and regional security balance strategy of the new world order is based on dual main axis: Trans-atlantic (US) axis and West (EU) axis. Mid-zone security line, which carries all tension of those dual axis, takes place in the center of Trans-atlantic and West axis. While Eastern Mediterrranean and Middle East regions are in the Western part of mentioned security line; India, Pakistan and Afganistan (Indian Triangle) are in the Eastern part. So, it is clear that Cyprus and Paletsine/Israel are the strategic security points which can balance those two parts. That can be shown on a diagram as such:
Security Balance in the New World Order
*Trans-atlantic Axis (US)
(— Mid-zone Security Line –)
*West Axis (EU)
(Indian Triangle stabilizing the Eastern part of Western part of the Security Line)
(Regions stabilizing stabilizing Western part of the Security Line)
2. Importance of Cyprus in regard to the newly-emerged energy lines:Eastern Mediterranean Region, described as the core security zone, has been shaping itself as the new regional internal security zone within the new global balance. Paralel to this mentioned newly emerged feature, East Mediterranean Region has become more influential and determinative on those global-regional strategic balance systems. Furthermore, Eastern Mediterranean has been called as ‘South Eastern European Security Architecture’ by the EU and as ‘Eastern Mediterranean Security Architecture’ by Turkey, US, Britain, Israel, Egypt. Eastern Mediterranean Security Architecture is the main control point between Eurasia and Afro-Eurasia, and Cyprus is the central base for Eastern Mediterranean Security Architecture. In addition to this, although the central area for the South Eastern European Security Architecture is the mid of Balkans, the bottom line point of that regional security architecture is Cyprus.
Along with the dissolution of the Soviet Union; West Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, South Asia have appeared as the alternative routes for transportation of the Central Asian energy and commercial items to Europe. Either those energy routes directly arrive İskenderun Bay and Eastern Mediterranean or indirectly arrive Eastern Mediterranean over Eden Gulf, Suez, Black Sea or Straits; Cyprus takes places as the stable parameter on those routes.
3. Importance of Cyprus in regard to the new Middle East – Balkan Politics:
After the Cold War Period, Middle East and Balkans have become more strictly connected with each other, and in the new world order the struggle for the establishment of hegemony over those two regions has made global rivalry congruent with regional politics. The relation between the Middle East and the Balkans has represented radical increase after 1990s. While crises in the Middle East reflect themselves on the Balkans, the changes in the Balkans have a direct influence on the Middle East. The dissolution of Yugoslavia following the Gulf Crises and the newly emerged strategic balance in the Balkans following the cooperation initiatives in the Middle East have been the significant symbols of the mentioned change in those two regions.
So, Eastern Mediterranean has appeared as a new area which has its own internal balance with in those relations. From now on, not any dependent but a kind of independent Middle East and Balkan politics should be pointed out. Eastern Mediterranean takes place in the center of that Middle East – Balkan Politics, and Cyprus is one of the basic elements in that politics.
Strategic Importance of Cyprus for the EU
At the very beginnig of 1990s, disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Varsaw Pact, acceleration of political integration efforts of European States, the rivalry between the West and US all had a direct impact on Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus. EU concentrated itself on benefiting from the advantages that Cyprus presents in Eastern Mediterranean. For the EU, controlling the energy centers, has been one of the most important advantage that Cyprus has. In this context, application for the EU full membership in 1990, acceptance of membership application in December, 2002 have been milestones in EU’s approach to Cyprus issue. That kind of behaviour pattern of the EU has shifted the Cyprus initiative from the UN to the EU. From then on, The EU has begun to play more effective role on Cyprus issue.
It is quite significant that in Cyprus Progress Reports of the EU, the statement “invaded territory” was used for the Northern part of Cyprus. That kind of statement means that EU has adopted the enlargement strategy covering whole Cyprus. In other words, Cyprus strategy of the EU has focused on the status quo both in Cyprus and Eastern Mediterranean. Regarding Cyprus policies of the EU into consideration we should present the importance of Cyprus for the EU.
First of all; largely industrilized EU provide 80% of its oil need from the Middle East, and this proportion is mostly carried to Europe through Mediterranean. Secondly, the EU has been trying to establish sea superiority in Mediterranean and Aegean Sea in the newly established and so-called ‘New World Order’. EU will be able to realise that policy as long as it could control Gebraltar Strait, Malta, Girit and Cyprus. For that reason, besides those three, EU has fully involved itself in EU full membership of Cyprus which controls strategic units in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is assessed that EU will be a global power and play a crucial role in global policies, only if it establishes domination in Mediterranean. Thirdly, following EU membership of Cyprus, Europe will intensify its control over İskenderun Bay and Eastern Mediterranean exits, and Europe will also be integrated with the Middle East Region. When it is considered that Mousul and Saudi oil is directed towards Eastern Mediterranean, the stratgic location of East Mediterranean in terms of energy lines in the future will be one of the basic parameters of global power rivalry. Fourthly, Cyprus is significant for Turkey since it is a strategic point of Euroasian continent. In the future, Cyprus might be a frontline or headquarter for the EU in regard to trade, energy, military aspects.
Importance of Cyprus for Turkey
Cyprus not only holds importance in the new global-regional security strategy, in regard to the newly-emerged energy lines, in regard to the new Middle East – Balkan Politics, and for the EU but also for Turkey. The reasons of Cyprus importance for Turkey depend on various factors.
Firstly, Cyprus represents importance for Turkey in terms of geographic proximity. The island is only 71km from Turkey. Turkish coasts completely surround Eastern Mediterranean from the Northern part.
Secondly, İskenderun Bay, which will be an important import and export center for the Caspian Sea Region States, is fully open to island’s impact.
Thirdly, Cyprus has a kind of feature that can cause threat for Turkey’s security and that can also support Turkish Security need.
Fourthly, Cyprus also presents same advantages for Turkey in regard to the control of Eastern Mediterranean.
Fifthly, Cyprus is also significant for Turkey’s ‘Outer Turks’ Policy. A kind of weakness in relation with the security and defence of Turkish Cypriots might spread over Western Terrace, Bulgaria, and even Azerbaijan and Bosnia. For that reason, defence of Turkish Cypriots is not only vital for this community but also for Turks living outside Turkey.
Sixthly, while Internal Security Boundary starts from 150km away from our borders, our border-line security is 1500km a way from our borders. That Security area also creates our near abroad security zone. To sum up, for Turkey Cyprus is both the near abroad security point in the Southern part and the asymetric threat point depending on the quality of foreign powers. In other words, Cyprus represents importance for the overall Anatolian peninsula security.
And last, Cyprus is also the key point for Turkish Sea Strategy in relation with near sea zone consisting Caspian – Black Sea – Straits – Aegean Sea- Eastern Mediterranean – Suez and Persian Gulf.
Turkish decision-makers, depending on the issues mentioned above, have always determined Turkey’s stand in world politics taking those Cyprus-related factors into consideration. So, it is hardly possible to evaluate Turkish foreign policy behaviour pattern disregarding Cyprus issue.
Depending on the explanations above, it can easily be claimed that Cyprus has always held strategic importance in world politics. That mentioned strategic importance should not be explained through the critical location of Cyprus geography but also the perceptions, the regional and global actors have had, related with Cyprus. So, the expectations and policies of some regional and global actors in regard to Cyprus makes that small island extremely important and usually bring it to the top of international political agenda. It seems that as long as the clash of regional and global powers’interest last, Cyprus issue will continue to occupy the agenda.
Alaysa, H. Fikret. Tarihte Kıbrıs (Cyprus Throughout History), Kıbrıs Türk Derneği Genel Merkezi Press., Ankara 1988.
Atun, Ali Fikret. Avrupa Birliği ve Kıbrıs’ın Avrupa Birliği’ne Üyeliği (The European Union and the European Union Memebership of Cyprus), Nicosia, Kıbrıs Türk Mücahitleri Derneği Press: 10, Devlet Basımevi, Nicosia 2001.
Davutoğlu, Ahmet. Stratejik Derinlik (The Strategic Depth), Küre Press., eighth edition, İstanbul 2002.
Denker, M. Sami. Kıbrıs Sorunu – Bir Milletin ve Devletin Yaşama Hakkı (The Cyprus Question-The Right to Live of A Nation and A State), Türker Press., Ankara 2001.
Gümrükçü, Harun. Türkiye ve Avrupa Birliği – İlişkinin Unutulan Yönleri – Dünü ve Bugünü (Turkey and the European Union – Past and Present), Avrupa Türkiye Araştırma Enstitüsü Press., İstanbul 2002.
Hanlı, Hakan. ‘Yeni Dünya Düzeni, Global ve Bölgesel Güvenlik Dengesi: ABD – Türkiye; Vazgeçilmez Kıbrıs’ (‘The New World Order, Global and Regional Security Balance: USA-Turkey; Cyprus’), Stradigma e-journal, no. 4, May 2003, www.stradigma.com
İnalcık, Halil. Ottoman Policy and Administration in Cyprus after the the Conquest, Ayyıldız Matbaası A.Ş., Ankara 1969.
Kılıçkıran, Osman. Kıbrıs Meselesinin Tarihçesi ve Çözümü ile ilgili kısa bir deneme (The Background of the Cyprus Question and an Overview on the Solution of Cyprus Question), AÜSBF Press., Ankara 1990.
Kuloğlu, Armağan. ‘Doğu Akdeniz’in Güvenliği Kapsamında Kıbrıs’ın Stratejik Boyutu’ (‘The Strategic Dimention of Cyprus in the Context of the Eastern Mediterranean Security’), Stratejik Analiz, vol. 3, no. 32, December 2002.
Manisalı, Erol. Dünden Bugüne Kıbrıs (Cyprus from Past to Present), Gündoğan Press, İstanbul 2002.
Öztürk, Osman Metin. Doğu Akdeniz’in ve Kıbrıs Adası’nın Stratejik Dengeleri Bağlamında Annan Belgesi (The Annan Plan in the Context of Easterm Mediterranean and Cyprus Security), stradigma e-journal, no. 1, February 2003, www.stradigma.com
Tezkan, Yılmaz. Siyaset, Strateji ve Milli Güvenlik (Politics, Strategy and National Security), Ülke Kitapları, İstanbul 2001
KONA, Gamze (2004). “Strategic Importance of Cyprus in regard to the East and West”. The paper presented at the 5th International Finnish Colloqium of South East Institute of Finland, organized by Finland South East Institute and International Cyprus Near East University, October 1-3, 2004, Nicosia-Cyprus.