A water pipeline between Turkey and northern Cyprus was recently completed, despite criticism from some Greek Cypriot politicians that the project would increase Turkey’s influence over the north of the island. Rebecca Bryant writes that the project represents part of Turkey’s long-term strategy to increase development in the north, preparing it for an agreement to end the division of the island, but also making it prepared to stand on its own. She argues that Greek Cypriots nevertheless carry some of the blame for Turkey’s growing influence over northern Cyprus and that they should focus on developing new and urgent policies regarding the north rather than delaying engagement until after a solution is reached.
On 17 October, on a bluff overlooking the north Cyprus shore, supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Cypriot nationalists, and the simply curious gathered to watch Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders inaugurate the ‘project of the century.’ As women who had waited too long for Erdoğan’s arrival began to faint from the heat, leaders gave speeches and opened a pump, as they had done only a couple of hours earlier in the Turkish city of Anamur. This was ceremonial, however, since water was already gushing, making its way across 66.5 kilometres of sea and filling a dam in north Cyprus the size of a small city.
When Erdoğan first announced the plan more than four years ago, Turkish Cypriots looked on it sceptically. Since the 1950s, Cypriots have dreamed of bringing water from Turkey, whose Taurus Mountains in the south feed rivers that flow into the sea. Following the Greek-backed coup and subsequent Turkish military intervention that divided the island in 1974, Turkish Cypriots began again to discuss bringing water from the country that in those days they still considered their ‘motherland’. But in a classic case of crying wolf, Turkish Cypriots had imagined the water for so long, and had been so often disappointed, that it took them some time to understand that when Erdoğan says a project will happen, apparently it has to happen.
This unprecedented project began in Turkey, where two villages were displaced to construct the dam that would be the source. Suspended pipes were strung over the course of more than two years, often against strong waves and currents. The countryside and many of the roads in north Cyprus have been torn apart to lay the total of 478 kilometres of pipes that will deliver the water throughout the island. It is expected that the pipes will deliver 75 million cubic metres of water every year for approximately the next fifty years. Half of this water will be for domestic and industrial use, half for agricultural use.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı declared during the inauguration that the water would make Cyprus the Green Island again, referring to its name in medieval literature. Other Turkish Cypriot politicians claimed that it would change the parameters of ongoing negotiations to reunify the island. Still others proclaimed this one-of-a-kind engineering feat as a proof of the greatness of the Turkish nation.
All the leaders called it ‘peace water’, referring to Turkish claims that it may become a liquid inducement for Greek Cypriots to negotiate a settlement to reunify the divided island. In the island’s south, however, right-wing Greek Cypriot politicians fumed, characterising the project as ‘a third invasion’, while the Republic of Cyprus foreign ministry claimed that it would ‘augment Turkey’s influence and control over Cyprus’.
This claim is certainly true, and it has been a source of disagreement between Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, the latter of whom have considerably mixed feelings about this generosity. On the one hand, water is a critical concern, as the average rainfall for the island as a whole is only 480 millimetres. In the north, misuse, especially as a result of tourism and a boom in holiday home construction for foreigners, has dried up certain aquifers and left parts of the central plain with trickling water supplies that have a distinctly salty taste.
There is no water conservation programme in the north, where water is normally supplied to homes only every few days but everyone has water tanks to collect it. Water delivery services drain wells in an unregulated way. Environmental groups charge that the key to solving the water problem is not flooding Cyprus with water from across the sea but rather with devising local solutions. There are also concerns about the project’s potential effects on the sea as a whole – a question that has been insufficiently studied.
Turkish Cypriots, however, have been especially vocal about the project’s management. While Turkish Cypriots argue that the project was part of Turkey’s aid package to north Cyprus and should be used both for their benefit and profit, Turkish leaders are reluctant to put a project on which they spent 1.6 billion Turkish lira (approximately £358 million) into the hands of the municipalities and local water authority, as Turkish Cypriots are asking. Turkish Cypriots not only want to reap the financial benefits of the water but also do not want to have their autonomy impinged upon by the potential threat of cutting it off.
And here we come to the crux of the matter. Although north Cyprus is often portrayed as a province or colony of Turkey, until the arrival of the AK Party Turkish Cypriots actually had considerably more autonomy than they do now. Former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Raif Denktaş was highly respected in Turkey and close to the Turkish military, and he could normally manipulate the latter to get his way.
After the AK Party came to power in late 2002 with a platform of Europeanisation in Turkey and, as a consequence, a solution in Cyprus, Denktaş and his military cronies were all sidelined. The checkpoints dividing the island opened in 2003, allowing Cypriots to move around the island for the first time in almost three decades, and in 2004, Cypriots voted in a referendum on a United Nations plan that would have reunited the island. They went to the polls only one week before the Republic of Cyprus would accede as an EU member state.
Although Turkish Cypriots supported that plan, Greek Cypriots resoundingly rejected it. While negotiations have continued in fits and starts since then, the Republic of Cyprus has continued a policy of isolating the north, impeding the various kinds of ‘openings’ that Turkish Cypriots had expected as a result of the referendum. In Greek Cypriot discourse, cooperation with any institution in the north, including its academic institutions, constitutes ‘recognition by implication’, meaning that although doors opened in the island, these were not doors that connected Turkish Cypriots to the world.
Instead, middle-class Turkish Cypriots saw the lives of their Greek Cypriot counterparts and asked why they could not have the same. And not long after the U.N. plan’s defeat, Turkish politicians began to formulate a Plan B regarding Cyprus: Making it as strong an entity as possible. Of course, having an economically strong north Cyprus is important for any eventual reunification, as one of the main reasons Greek Cypriots voted against it in 2004 was that the poorer north would be a financial burden to them.
However, the Republic of Cyprus also does everything it can to impede that development, leaving Turkish Cypriots stuck: If they cannot develop in advance of a solution, how can they keep from being either swallowed by the Greek Cypriot majority or a financial burden to them? And if the Greek Cypriot leadership blocks that development at every turn, what choice do they have but to develop via Turkey?
In the past ten years, Turkey is a growing regional economic giant that is leaving its imprint more and more on the island’s north in the name of ‘development’. Global chains have arrived in the island via Turkey, while large, five-star resorts with Turkish owners now fill its coasts. Turkish Airlines now flies to hundreds of locations, and the unrecognised Ercan airport connects Cypriots to them through a short commuter flight to Istanbul.
The water project, then, is only the culmination of a longer-term plan to ‘develop’ the north, preparing it for a solution but also making it prepared to stand on its own. This is the Plan B: Making north Cyprus into a stronger entity so that, in the event negotiations fail yet again, the Turkish side can argue for its recognition. All of this happens, however, in a ‘Turkish’ way, while the water project is interpreted by many Turkish Cypriots as tying them ‘from the belly’ to Turkey, like an umbilical cord ties a child to its mother.
The water project is now a fact, though an untested one. The rush to complete it casts some doubt on its construction. However, if Greek Cypriot politicians are to complain that this cements Turkish occupation, they should also understand their own complicity. The effect of the ‘recognition by implication’ rhetoric has been like squeezing a balloon: The air is going to gather somewhere else. If Greek Cypriot leaders are serious about stopping further Turkish intervention, there need to be new and urgent policies regarding the north that do not delay all engagement until after a solution that until now has proven elusive.
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Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.
Rebecca Bryant – LSE, European Institute
Rebecca Bryant is a Senior Research Fellow in the LSE’s European Institute. She is a political and legal anthropologist whose work focuses on ethnic conflict and displacement, border practices, transitional justice, and contested sovereignty in Cyprus, Turkey, and more recently the south Caucasus.
There is no doubt that the pipeline is detrimental to a solution to the Cyprus issue, and this is a reason for the project. In my opinion the author does not understand the Cyprus Problem. The Cyprus is in essence a problem of having a rogue state, namely Turkey which has invaded and ethnically cleansed the northern part of Cyprus and then proceeded to obliterate the Cypriot culture that existed for thousands of years. Today such acts are the work of entities that call themselves Islamic State. The solution to the problem is not an agreement sponsored by the UN and tailored by Turkey and their allies, to circumvent the rule of law, it is simply the application of the rule of law. Turkey and the Turkish military currently by force are not allowing the rule of law and therefore there is a vacuum where International, European and Domestic law simply does not apply. For example, Turkey does not recognise the judgments of the ECtHR, it does not recognise the EU legislation or the acquis communautaire, it does not recognise the UN resolutions, and it does not respect domestic Cypriot law and the rights of Cypriots. The water pipeline is a new obstacle the Turkish Cypriots will have to deal with along with the settlers that have been brought to Cyprus from Turkey in contravention of the IV Geneva Convention. The Turkish Cypriots are not putting themselves in a position as a community so they can be reintegrated into the Republic. Perhaps purposely so, but you can not expect the rest of the Cypriots to simply accept the appropriation of their property and their patris and recognise their illegal racist ‘state’.
As the article clearly points out that the Greeks Cypriots rejected the UN plan to unite the island. The Greeks Cypriots want to dictate only their conditions forgetting the clashes between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots since the independence from Britain. The present division of keeping both sides separate is the best solution to keep the peace on the Cyprus Island.
I think you don’t know what you’re talking about John Andrea.Obviously it is you who does not understand the Cyprus problem.
Actually, the comment by the Greek Cypriot John Andrea show that the Greek Cypriots want to forget history and what they did to the Turkish Cypriots up to 1974. The Cyprus issue is not a geological event, it is something that came about the Greek side doing all those things they now accuse Turkey. I would recomned Mr. Andrea to read the article by Loucas Charalambous in the Cyprus Mail of 22. May 2013 with the tittle “50 years later, we still don’t accept what we did in 1963”. Another interesting article is a more recent one from ex-Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Rolandis.
Kufli, I have spent a life time studying the history of Cyprus, I have no interest to hide any part of it, in fact quite the opposite. I think all of Cyprus’ history should be know, especially the recent past from 1945 on wards as it is still important to understand what has happened and what is happening today. I have given many facts in my comments here but perhaps the most important events that we must all remember is night of the 7th of June 1958 when the Turkish Cypriots encouraged by the Turkish false flag operations (the bomb in the information bureau), first attacked the rest of the Cypriots. This started the inter-communal violence, which Turkey knew was a necessary precursor to the partition of the island.
I don’t understand how Turkey is supposed to respect judgements of the ECTHR when it isn’t even part of the EU especially when Europeans don’t want them within it with emphasis to Greek and Creek Cypriots who have blocked negotiations – you cannot have your cake and eat it as well. Don’t know why someone would use that in their argument. Don’t also see how Cypriot law should be applied to the North when there is no peace settlement – there’s a tacit suggestion that one community should have de facto rule in Cyprus – hardly democratic itself. I should find it no surprise that given the pipeline is a project to improve the arid climate of the North – Greeks try to politicise this achievement as an obstacle to peace. Given the closed minded attitudes of many in the South are common with the one expressed by John Andrea, a peace deal or Island unity looks hopeless and North Cyprus should look to campaigning for International recognition based on the Greeks reluctant attitude to unify the Island.
I should also add, you have to question the sincerity of John Andrea’s arguments – he seems to quote history from a nationalistic perspective, rather than a factual one which also supports the view of many Greek Cypriots of being closed minded and uncompromising.
I was raised in a Greek Cypriot family, but that doesn’t mean I was raised to be nationalistic in any way. Yes education was very nationalistic when I was growing up, but my family taught me both sides of the story and what their experiences were from that time. Painting all Greek Cypriots with the same brush is misleading and counterproductive, just as assuming that all Turkish Cypriots have the same attitude towards Turkey. I would say, to some extent, Greek Cypriots are more close minded about the removal of the status quo because they managed to thrive despite it, whilst the Turkish Cypriots suffered because of it.
Erol instead of trying to detract from my comments accusing me of not being factual, why do you not give us you version of the facts?
Erol as you addressed me I will address you. You start your comment with “I do not understand…” that is right you do not understand and that is the only correct statement you have managed to make. Your comment was not made to enlighten us but to at best to mislead us due to ignorance and at worst to deceive us because you find the truth to be too unpalatable. If you do not know, look it up, don’t make it up!
The ECtHR was established on the 21 January 1959 on the basis of Article 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights when its first members were elected by the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. Turkey ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1954.
And another thing the ECtHR has noting to do with the EU.
Now concerning the EU, it is not Greece or Cyprus that is blocking Turkey’s accession to the EU, it is Turkey who is blocking Turkey’s accession, because they can not make the necessary reforms and respect international law and human rights, That includes withdrawing the occupation troops from Cyprus.
Now for the ECtHR … The European court of human rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to pay €90m (£73m) in compensation for some of the events of its 1974 invasion of Cyprus. The court’s largest-ever damages award is based on earlier ECtHR judgments ruling that the invasion and subsequent occupation of the northern third of the island was illegal. There will be more damages to follow as the damages are only for specific issues. Millions more are due for the destruction of Famagusta. So far Turkey has refused to pay and is now due to pay interest too.
Do you really think a country that has no respect for the Convention on Human Rights has a place in the European Union? And would it be wise for Cypriots to become involved with Turkey in any way?
As far as domestic Cypriot law and European law is concerned, the jurisdiction is the whole of Cyprus but the law is suspended in the north as it is not under government control.
My commend the author .
With all due respects to John Andrea his comments do not refer to the history and the issues of The Republic of Cyprus. Declared on 16 August 1960 that the constitution was 70 % GC and 30 % TC partnership together with other acknowledgement .
On 22 December 1963 known as THE BLOODY Noel GC forced their partner out of Parlement together with Cunta From Greece and occupied the. Republic Of Cyprus.
Cyprus problem began in Deceber 1963 , not 20 July 1974 as Greece an Greek Cpriots Claim.
Turkish Cypriots suffered , humiliated and without the supply of food and other necessary requirements Turkih Cypriots would have died from hunger. ( Palestine problems. .? )
Rebecca Byrant is right. Turkey As one Of the three Garantors intervened under the Treaty Garanty Agreement , because Grrek Cypriots under Nicosia Samson declared the Island of Cyprus ” The Helen Republic of Cyprus ” on 15 July 1974 !!!
Turkey intervened on 20 July 1974 , and stop the Blood shed and cenoside against Turkish Cypriots under The AKRITAS PLAN .
John Andrea could not have expressed it in a better way! Rebecca Bryant does not understand the Cyprus problem. Take it from a Cypriot who lives in Cyprus and has lived during the Turkish invasion in 1974. Prior to 1974 Cyprus had a population of around 700,000 (78% Christian and 18% Muslim). There was no division of North or South. On July 20th 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus by landing on the island 40.000 Turkish troops.By killing over 3,000 Christians (men, women or children did not matter to them), taking thousands as prisoners (out of those more than 1,200 were “lost” and their fate was unknown until recently when mass graves of assassinated victims are being discovered and DNA links them to the missing prisoners of war) and by raping hundreds of women and young girls, they forced 200,000 Christians leave their home and the land their ancestors lived for thousands of years and settle to the South part of Cyprus. 38 % of Cyprus has been occupied by Turkey. Then by threatening another invasion forced the Muslims that lived in the South to move to the North. Of course even though these Muslims were given by the Turkish army much more than what they had, (home, land and property taken by force from the Christian population) they chose to leave Cyprus rather than live under Turkey’s occupation. More than !000,000 Muslims from Cyprus moved to the UK and other European countries. In order to fill the gap Turkey brought over 100,000 illegal settlers from Turkey. Now they claim a separate State. Please Rebecca, do some research before you write articles.
do you think there was no problem between muslims and christians at 1974 and Turkey just came Cyprus and divided country. First you need to know what EOKA want and what EOKA did. And if south wants be together again with north why did south said no at 24 April 2004 with %75, while north saying yes with %65?
They said no because if you read the plan it was to sell out there country the fact is that the Turkish troops have been there since 74 i believe it is time to leave they have no right to be there they invaded a country and want to stay there. Its 2015 they shouldn’t be allowed to
It is odd that apart from John Andrea, no one else commented about the Turkish Cypriots umbilical cord, the pipeline, that joins the baby to the mother. When will the Turkish Cypriots grow up and own up to the mistakes of the past, and take responsibility like adults. Rejoin their fellow Cypriots and share a bright future while they still can. Stubbornly condemning themselves to limitation of living in an illegally occupied state will get them nowhere and the time to rejoin Cyprus is running out fast, there will come a time when the Cypriots will not want them back. Let hope they enjoy the water at least until the bill comes in, for I fear they will pay a high price,
Greek Cypriot leader arrived in New York and pleaded at the UN on 19 July 1974 to stop Greek Cypriot massacres of innocent Turkish Cypriots……as required by The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. Britain refused to act, but Turkey intervened to protect Turkish Cypriot interest.
Mr. Levent, don’t you find it strange why Britain or Greece refused to act but Turkey showed so much “sensitivity”? Prior to the 1974 Turkish invasion in Cyprus in the massacres as you call them, do you know the number of Turkish Cypriots killed, why and by whom? Why do you think more than 100,000 Turkish Cypriots left the North occupied part and went to other European countries (not Turkey) when they had 40,000 Turkish troops to “protect” them? Why more than 100,000 illegal settlers from Turkey came to replace Turkish Cypriots? Food for thought Mr. Levent! I would suggest to read my previous comment for the atrocities that the so “sensitive” Turkish army committed in Cyprus. This might help wake up the very few Turkish Cypriots who stayed in the North and empower them to join the rest of the Cypriots in order to drive Turkey out of Cyprus.
The Turks have been genocidal for over 100 years. Remember 1915 when 3 million Christians who exterminated by the Turks in what went down in history as the Armenian Genocide.
In reality the Turks exterminated 1.5 million Armenians, 1 million Greeks and 500,000 Assyrians.
So it should be known as the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocide. But as the old saying goes, “What goes round comes round”, another saying, “Sow and so shall you reap”.
The time is fast coming when there will be an explosion in Turkey. This is not 1915 a time when the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian were deceitfully disarmed. It is now 2015 and a time when Turkey as an enemy on each of her borders. It is a time when Turkey is under a major threat from the likes of the Kurds who have access to modern weaponry.
The Kurds and their allies are going to take the battle right up to Erdogon’s 1000 room palace.
Ankara and Instabul are far from safe, pity the poor innocent civilians who are going to lose their lives in the cross fire.
History shows that Turkey has had a turbulent history. On the 17 September 1961 Ali Adnan Ertekin Menderes who had been the Turkish Prime Minister between 1950–1960 was executed by hanging together with two of his cabinet ministers.
If I was Erdogon and his cronies I would have already adopted an exit plan, because soon it may be too late.
I must agree with Ioannis Leontiades when he said that John Andrea could not have expressed it in a better way.
As a Greek Cypriot, I must say, from our point of view, the best and only way forward is forgiveness. I am also a Christian (before being Greek), and so for me that means I have to forgive. Jesus gave me that example. My whole family had to move from the North to Limassol and Larnaca. Did Turks in the past do wrong by invading? Did Greek Cypriots do wrong before even that againt Turks? I don’t know fully story, as I live in England. But I know Jesus said “love your enemies”. That’s not a choice if you call yourself a Christian. And for the Turks, all I can say is that I am not their judge. And I do long for unity and peace as well- together.
I read the comments and many of them from Greek part of the Island and England.
English don’t speak about the terror events against and Turkish Cypriots and the English management of the İsland by the greek cypriots .
Greek cypriots don’t want to remember and speak about these . Also never speaks about the coup of Nicos SAMPSON against the government of CYPRUS REPUBLIC which was built according to the agreements in 1960.
As if these events never happend people speaks here without having sincerety.
The reality is that: Greeks and greek cypriots wanted to unite the island to Greece like the other islands in Aegean sea despite the agreements 1958-1959 London and Zurich.
Turkey used it’s rights according to the treaties and agreements under the international law.
The AKRITAS PLAN to unite the island to Greece collapsed. So Greeks did not like it. Uniting Project failed. ENOSİS collapsed.
Greeks and greek cypriots should think where they did mistakes by doing a coup against bishop president Makarios and peace of the whole island.
Water Project is because of the humanitarian need for water of Turkish republic of Northerh Cyprus citizens in the North.
If the South thinks to continue to prevent the basic needs of Turkish republic of Northerh Cyprus citizens like water by building water dams through Trodos mountains it is unaviodable Turkey to help the North with this kind of projects.
By reading this article I again understood how the reuniting of two society of the Cyprus island is impossible.
Turkey is really a big country that Greek Cypriots, Greeks and Europeans can never understand….
And never let the enemies do bad massacres against Turkish Republic of Northerh Cyprus citizens again such in the past…
People live the life they deserved…