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    Matthew Bryza: “I think that Turkey has decided it wants a two-state solution”

    Matthey Bryza is no stranger to Cyprus. An expert on Eastern Mediterranean and Turkish politics, in the past, he has sparked outrage in Nicosia, with his comments on the Cyprus problem. On the sidelines of the Cyprus Forum, we had the chance to chat with the former US diplomat regarding the new world order that is taking shape and the place of Turkey and the Cyprus problem in it.

    Bryza says that he does not think that talks on the Cyprus problem will resume as Turkey has decided that it wants a “two-state solution.” He adds that he is not certain that Turkey will achieve this aim, as “it depends on other countries to recognise the two states.” According to Bryza, “if Turkey wants a two-state solution, they must recognise the Republic of Cyprus.”

    – The war in Ukraine has affected the Eastern Mediterranean. Will this lead to further US involvement in the region or will another country fill this gap?

    – I was hoping the US would have been more engaged in the region. As a former diplomat, I don’t see this. You should have already seen that in the past few months, the Biden administration decided to withdraw its support to the East Med pipeline. This could mean an American withdrawal from the region or a change in perception regarding the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. Some high-ranked officials in the Biden administration, whom I know, in my view, want a relative calmness in the area, regarding Cyprus and Turkey. On one side they see a Turkey that is not cooperating on sanctions against Russia, which is something that concerns the US government. But on the other side, we have a de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    This might sound crazy to a Greek Cypriot, but Turkey has not sent any research vessels to the Eastern Mediterranean since 2020. As you remember, President Erdogan sent the navy to escort those vessels that summer. All these ships are now docked in the Black Sea. This points to the fact that Turkey wants a de-escalation of tensions in the region.

    I estimate that Turkey will seek a two-state solution, which is something that will lead her to recognise the Republic of Cyprus. This could lead to having a Turkey that is not aggressive on energy issues and a Turkey that can appreciate the possibilities of transporting natural gas from Israel and maybe, someday, from Cyprus.

    – How do you evaluate Turkish threats on the Aegean islands?

    – Placing troops on those islands goes against the relevant agreements. Is Erdogan being asked to remain silent when this happens? Perhaps he should remain silent. What will he get in exchange for his silence, though?

    – Is Erdogan’s aggression an electoral tool?

    – It could be. But the average Turk, when he wakes up every morning, does not care about Greece or Cyprus. What he cares about, is the economy. This is the biggest issue in Turkey and the Turkish economy is in a bad shape. What Erdogan must do to win the elections is revive the economy. Hence, Greece and Cyprus are not at the top of his agenda. Also, I think that Erdogan is angry with Prime Minister’s Mitsotakis remarks at the US Congress.

    – Do you think that the East Med pipeline will be constructed?

    – I don’t think so. First of all, it has no logical cohesion as to its commercial value. It is a really expensive choice for transporting natural gas. You can, through smaller pipelines, transport natural gas to Egypt from Israel and Cyprus and from there, invest in liquefied gas and transport it anywhere.

    – What if someone doesn’t want a pipeline passing through Turkey?

    – Yes, there is always the option of LNG. From a commercial aspect, the most rational choice is a pipeline that will pass through Turkey, as it is a massive market, with ever-increasing needs.

    – There is a school of thought which considers that if a pipeline through Turkey is constructed, then Turkey will control the flow of energy and will be in a position to blackmail other states.

    – At the moment, there already is a smaller pipeline starting from Turkey and going to Greece, as well as other pipelines that pass through the country. I’ve never heard a Turkish official use the pipelines as a weapon. In my view, the most rational approach to the matter is to have Cyprus and Israel send a part of their natural gas to Egypt and another part to Turkey. It is the most rational and cost-effective solution.

    – Do you think that the discovery of natural gas can catalyse a solution to the Cyprus problem, or will it have negative effects?

    – The answer is that energy can assist in a solution. However, due to tensions, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt may decide to create an Eastern Mediterranean Energy Forum. This will aim at isolating Turkey. All these can change. Perhaps, allowing Turkey in the forum as a spectator would be a step in the direction of reducing tensions. Or maybe the politicians can step out of the way and leave the companies to work it out.

    – Everyone expects that talks on the Cyprus problem will resume.

    – I don’t believe that the talks will resume. I think that Turkey has decided that it wants a two-state solution. I think this is terrible.

    – Is a two-state solution possible?

    – I don’t think so.

    – Is the world ready to accept such a solution? Won’t it affect other countries that have similar political issues?

    – A two-state solution depends on whether other countries will recognise the two states. I’m not sure that they will. The Turkish narrative is that ‘we put everything on the table, including troops and guarantees, but the Greek Cypriots said it was a big risk’. And Turkey said it is giving up. I was told this by a UN negotiator. But if Turkey wants a two-state solution, it will be forced to recognise the Republic of Cyprus. And then we will have a new world.

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