Between hammer and anvil
By Alexis Georgiades
Despite the fact that things in the political and diplomatic level are going as the Cypriot government had planned from the beginning, especially after the tripartite meeting of Cyprus-Greece-Egypt, in practice, there is a problem. It concerns the restricted to nonexistent ability of Nicosia to ensure its sovereignty at its seas.
Issues of sovereignty
The revelation that radars only cover 43% of the area of the Exclusive Economic Zone, combined with the complete absence of warships that would ensure even a rudimentary defensive military balance, are serious reasons for concern.
This concern, according to “MAXH”‘s information, is reflected to specific actions and decisions taken at the highest level.
The first is the activation of the agreement that was signed in 2003 for the upgrade of its radiolabeling radars with the Israeli supplier company, so as to expand their coverage to 80% of the area of its EEZ. This, however, was decided recently, just last June, with severe impact on the price the Republic of Cyprus will have to pay.
However, what’s more important is the maturation of the thought within the government circles to initiate the procedures for acquiring warships through which the Republic of Cyprus can exercise effective and comprehensive surveillance in the vast expanse of its Exclusive Economic Zone, but also to guarantee, through the presence of the Cypriot flag, its sovereignty in these waters.
The issues of ships in the open sea
Information of the “MAXH” that are undisputed, mention that during the upcoming Anastasiades-Lieberman meeting, the latter will bring up the issue of the acquisition by the Republic of Cyprus of two open sea-type ships from Israel for surveillance purposes of the EEZ, for a rudimentary exercise of sovereignty.
Considering the situation in Cyprus EEZ and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, after the recent developments and the need to forge a closer cooperation between Cyprus and Israel in the framework of the alliance between the two countries, Tel Aviv views as necessary the acquisition by Cyprus of the two Israeli vessels as an show of good faith from Nicosia and the two way allied relationship.
An agreement for the acquisition of these warships was reached at the end of 2013, when the Minister of Defence was Fotis Fotiou, for the amount of €100 million, with their repayment over time and the provision of free military equipment from Israel worth EUR 10 million. An agreement, however, which never materialized due to reactions from parliamentary parties at the time, invoking the economic situation of the country. Now, however, things have changed and already the parties that disagreed then, are sending behind the scenes or even public the message to the government that they are ready to review the matter if and when the need arises.
The same reliable sources indicate that the issue of the two vessels will be put before President Anastasiades for the last time, as a “take it or leave it” offer, and possibly the response and stance of Nicosia on the matter will determine the position Israel will take on various issues relating to the cooperation between the two countries, especially when taking into account the rumors that Cyprus might seek to secure the acquisition of ships from other, european countries, and not from Israel.
The whole situation has repeatedly been discussed in the Cabinet’s meetings, due to the developments of recent days. However, it was kept away from the limelight, so as to not cause reactions or restore the populist voices that had toppled the then highly advantageous agreement with the government of Israel.