Written by Dr Yiorghos Leventis*
One thing is for sure: the Eastern Mediterranean is going through interesting times. Historically, I guess, we have always been living in such times. The Mediterranean, as the etymology of the geographical name denotes, constitutes the middle of the earth, the place where multiple trade routes meet and intersect. The battle for the control of such trade routes is perennial, from ancient to modern times. In modern times Cyprus' political legacy stems to a large extent from its acquisition by the British Empire. Importantly, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea lies at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa and as of recently at the heart of substantial natural resources reserves.
Benjamin Disraeli got hold of our island in an effort to thwart the advancing Russian Empire from entering into the Mediterranean sea. That was the reasoning behind the British decision at the Congress of Berlin, 1878, of propping up the Ottomans, the collapsing empire of the time, described at the time as 'Europe's sick man'. Disraeli's decision in 1878 was to be vindicated time and again. As oil started to be pumped out of the Middle East, Cyprus served as London's outpost securing the uninterrupted flow of the vital energy resource for the formidable industrial machine of the British Isles. It is no coincidence that Sir Anthony Eden exclaimed in strong and unyielding words, the British government's position in Cyprus clear and flat. Without bothering to clothe it in the familiar language of imperialistic idealism, Sir Anthony defined Britain's stake in one word: oil. He stressed:
Our country's industrial life and that of Western Europe, depend today, and must depend for many years, on oil supplies from the Middle East. If ever our oil resources were imperiled, we should be compelled to defend them. The facilities we need in Cyprus are part of that. No Cyprus, no certain facilities to protect our supply of oil. No oil, unemployment and hunger in Britain. It is as simple as that.
Before the ink of the signatures under the text of the three Treaties (Establishment, Guarantee, Alliance: 1960) which established the Republic of Cyprus under the guardianship of the UK, Greece and Turkey, dried, Eden underlines: The value of the compromise will depend upon the spirit in which it is worked and upon acceptable arrangements for our military bases. (Anthony Eden: Full Circle, London, 1960) Once again, with his remark, the visionary British statesman places emphasis on the importance for his own country of the guaranteed, uninterrupted and unfettered use of the British military bases in order that Middle Eastern oil flows without disruption to the British Isles. To be sure, Eden's emphasis on the Cyprus bases comes at a peak time of British decolonization.
December 2011: Discovery of Natural Gas Reserves - New Geostrategic Alliances