George STAVRIS Hürriyet Daily News
Long-running speculation over massive natural gas reserves in the tumultuous Southeastern Mediterranean and Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) became a reality in December 2011 when official research and scope reports were released.
Today, the Republic of Cyprus finds itself grappling with this mixed blessing. These rich findings can provide long-term benefits for the country but Cyprus is more like a novice treading a very slippery floor in the major leagues of global diplomacy.
A new but familiar player, the state of Israel, has made a thunderous entry into the traditionally loud trio of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, causing significant ruptures to the balance of the neighborhood. The event that sparked Israel’s newfound interest in Cyprus was the definitive signs of massive natural gas reserves in Cyprus’ Plot No. 12 (fittingly codenamed “Aphrodite”), right next to Israel’s own EEZ and massive reserves in its “Leviathan” plot.
It became apparent right from the start that Israel naturally considered every issue as highly imbued with its own national interest. Thus the decision to collaborate in treating the extracted natural gas and then transporting it to Europe (from both countries’ plots) came as a complete formula: pipelines would be part of a joint network, a vast specialized storage terminal, valued at 10 billion euros and funded almost completely by Israel. They would be built at the Vassilikos port near Limassol and the majority of the approximately 10,000 highly skilled personnel needed would be Israelis. Naturally, additional issues have come up in the logical process of things. The project will take about six or seven years to complete and inevitably the thousands of Israeli personnel engaged in it will need to have their families near them, so the total number of Israelis in Cyprus would become even greater, at least 15,000. These Israeli citizens will need to be housed in safe and secure conditions near the working site. Any analyst can easily run the math on the size and nature of this security force.