The World Today for February 03, 2023


Held Hostage


Workers in Cyprus went on a three-hour strike recently. The demonstration was a warning to the government and business elites on the Mediterranean island that public sector workers, educators, and construction workers could bring the Cypriot economy to a halt unless the bosses fulfill their promises of cost-of-living wage increases.

Hundreds gathered before the Labor Ministry in the capital, Nicosia, the Associated Press reported. The action delayed 22 flights carrying 4,000 passengers, including, presumably, tourists who are vital to the economy of Cyprus.

The workers took action just ahead of a vote to select the next president on Feb. 5, or a week later if a runoff vote must be held, Reuters explained. Fourteen candidates are running, with former Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides expected to garner the most votes, but not necessarily more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a Feb. 12 runoff.

Economic issues are important in Cyprus, where the pandemic hit tourism and other commercial activity hard. The discovery of natural gas deposits offshore, however, could fuel an economic boom, Euractiv wrote. The gas deposits also highlight Cyprus’s real challenge: its relations with nearby Turkey, whose leaders have disputed the Greek Cypriots’ rights to drill.

Every candidate, including Christodoulides, wants to resume talks with Turkey on the political divisions separating the southern, ethnic-Greek part of Cyprus, a member of the European Union, and the northern, ethnic-Turkish part whose government only Turkey recognizes. The two have been split off from each other since a Turkish invasion in 1974 that was in response to a Greek-supported coup.

Greek Cypriot leaders might be eager to resume talks because they fear that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could seek to annex the Turkish side of the island to boost his standing in the polls as he runs for reelection, as economist Theodoros Panayotou argued in the Cyprus Mail, a local English-language newspaper.

Such a move might distract voters who might want change in the top echelons of Turkey’s government amid sky-high inflation and other problems that have arisen under Erdogan’s more than 20 years in power. Having also served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, Erdogan is now seeking a second term as president, reported the New York Times.

As a result, as Ekathimerini newspaper columnist Nikos Konstandaras argued, Greek leaders and Greek Cypriot leaders are in the position of needing to wait and see what Erdogan will do before they can react. “Cyprus will remain hostage to Erdogan’s actions,” Konstandaras wrote.

Talking more could set them free.

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