Tensions Boil: Turkey, Northern Cyprus And Greek-Cypriots Argue Over Water Pipeline

Via Future Directions International, a report on increasing tensions related to management of the Northern Cyprus water pipeline:


In August, the Northern Cyprus Water Supply Project began transferring water from Turkey to Northern Cyprus. In a bid to increase water security to drought-prone Cyprus, this water pipeline has been heralded as a major step in its unification. Northern Cyprus is a self-declared state that comprises the north-eastern portion of the island of Cyprus and is home to mainly Turkish-Cypriots. The Southern half of Cyprus is home to the predominantly Greek-Cypriots who maintain control over two-thirds of the island. The construction of the pipeline has huge ramifications for relations between Northern Cyprus and Turkey as well as internal relations between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. A drying climate and greater dependency on water only exacerbates the underlying tensions between these three groups.


Discussions of the pipeline date back to the 1990s but only gained momentum after the sudden rise of the Turkish Government to financial eminence during the early 2000s. Termed by the President of Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, as the project that would turn the drought-prone island green, the promise of 75 million cubic metres of water has the potential to transform the whole economy of Northern Cyprus.  The first project of its scale and kind, the pipeline would ensure a decreased reliance on Greece to transport water amid a drought. Cyprus is a naturally dry island averaging a mere 500mm of rainfall a year. During periods of drought this drops to as low as 300mm. In previous dry periods Cyprus has temporarily cut domestic water supplies by nearly one-third. Hüseyin Gökçeku?, the General Co-ordinator for Water in the Northern Cyprus Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has stated that precipitation in Cyprus has decreased by more than a quarter over the past 96 years.

The majority Greek-Cypriot population of Cyprus are dubious about the peaceful intentions of the Turkish Government. It has been suggested that the construction of the pipeline is an attempt to further maintain political control over the north and empower the minority Turkish-Cypriot population. Once water has reached Northern Cyprus it could, potentially, increase property values there. It is feared the increase in property values will result in many Turkish-Cypriots demanding more money for the return of their lands upon reunification. Additionally, a rise in agricultural competition will see a decrease in the price of crop yields as the steady water supply will allow for further agricultural expansion in Northern Cyprus. This suggests that Turkey is attempting to strengthen its position in Northern Cyprus. There are, however, indications that the water pipeline will eventually supply Southern Cyprus as well. President Akinci argues that only then will it become “water of peace”, but many remain sceptical about whether the project will be extended this far. The pipeline ultimately increases the reliance of Turkish-Cypriots on Turkey, thus reinforcing long-standing cultural ties and making the reunification of Cyprus that much harder.

Since 20 November 2015, however, water from the pipeline has been cut. The Turkish Government denies that the water has been shut off due to disagreements over the administration of the pipeline and reports that it is the result of routine tests. The simple act of closing the water pipeline highlights the complex relationship between Northern Cyprus and Turkey. Turkey seeks to privatise the water pipeline to maintain a build-operate-transfer model while Northern Cyprus prefers it to be run internally through municipalities registered under the newly established private company Water and Canalisation Enterprises(BESK?). Turkey opposes the operation of BESK? over fears of corruption by Northern Cyprus and BESKI’s implicit control of the cost of the piped water. President Akinci has stated that Northern Cyprus demands respect from Turkey as they move toward an equal relationship between brothers, suggesting not an estrangement from Turkey but, rather, the building of a healthy relationship. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has responded by saying Turkey has paid a price for Northern Cyprus by spending roughly one billion dollars annually on the territory and by representing its interests on the global stage. This reflects the growing divide between what were originally two very similar governments.

The pipeline is neither an attempt to further maintain the Turkish stronghold in the North nor will it bring instant peace to a long-standing conflict. The pipeline is a symbol of hope for a desperately dry country and could provide an avenue to ensure future co-operation between the three parties.  This co-operation, however, still faces significant difficulties in light of the long-standing political divide.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 at 6:55 am and is filed under Greece, Turkey.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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