Last October, the Northern side of the island of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), held presidential elections. The winner was Ersin Tatar, backed by Turkey’s President Erdogan and a promoter of closer relations between the TRNC and Turkey. This election comes in a context of escalating tensions in the territories of the Eastern Mediterranean claimed by several countries (among which Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Libya, Israel and Turkey), for the access to hydrocarbon resources. A Turkish exploratory ship has indeed been sent into those disputed waters several times since this summer.
Under Tatar’s presidency, more tensions are likely between the TRNC and the southern part of the island, the Republic of Cyprus, as reunification talks between the two parts will definitively be frozen during his mandate. The TRNC holding a referendum in the next few years on an annexation to Turkey has also become more likely. Protests between nationalists of both sides could occur at the checkpoints as well as protests on the entire island against Turkish interference in the TRNC. President Erdogan has become increasingly assertive on foreign territories, in the East Mediterranean in particular, and refuses to allow the Republic of Cyprus to be the only beneficiary of the hydrocarbon wealth. This is an additional risk which could destabilise the region. Indeed, two additional gas fields have been discovered in the maritime territories where the Republic of Cyprus claims exclusive economic rights since the Aphrodite field was found in 2011. The political situation in Cyprus in the next few years will therefore be marked by heightened tensions between the two parts of the island and with Turkey.
Analyst: Florence Thiéry - F.Thiery@credendo.com