(RIEAS Research Associate – Security Analyst)
Since the 1974 Turkish invasion, the Republic of Cyprus has been held hostage of Turkey’s expansionary policy and aggressive behavior. For nearly four decades now, the Republic of Cyprus is trapped in an imbalance of military power distribution between the former and Turkey. Hence, Cyprus is de facto obliged to maintain a close military cooperation with Greece in order to alter the negative status quo and imbalance of power. Besides this, over the past few years Cypriot state faces incidents that come to indicate the need for modernization of its Intelligence infrastructure in order to keep up with the changing security environment on the island.Security environment in Cyprus after 1974
The 1974 Turkish invasion on the Republic of Cyprus introduced a new status quo on the island. With 37 per cent of its territory illegally occupied by the Turkish army, the Republic of Cyprus was severely wounded, not maintaining control on a large part of its territory, and against a clear existential threat coming from a third country, Turkey. Year 1974 was the landmark of the beginning of a new era on the island. The introduced era took actually took form in 1983, when the pseudo-state “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” was self-declared by the Turkish- Cypriots. The “TRNC”, with no legal status or international recognition has been serving Turkey’s political and geostrategic agenda on Cyprus and generally on the broader region of Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Hence, the Republic of Cyprus was de facto obliged, in defense of its territorial integrity and state sovereignty to enhance its defense and deterrence capabilities. The Republic of Cyprus adopted several armament programs and jointly with Greece, introduced the defensive strategic military alliance called the “Eniaio Amyntiko Dogma” (Joint Defense Doctrine), or simply referred to as Dogma as a counterbalance to the Turkish aggressiveness and expansionary policy.
The Military Security infrastructure of the Republic of Cyprus has been engaged in most of the issues in regards to the traditional security agenda of a sovereign state, especially in military intelligence gathering related to the Turkish occupation army, counter-espionage as well as the protection of the Cypriot Armed Forces (National Guard) infrastructure. The role of the Army Security Division (O.A.S) of the National Guard has been critical regarding issues of military intelligence and strategic planning of the Turkish occupation forces and always at the epicenter of many successfully carried out operations that led to the uncovering of Turkish spy rings.
a) Contemporary security environment
Thirty-six years later, Cyprus is still under Turkish occupation, and the only member-state of the European Union that remains under occupation from a third country. Global developments in the dawn of the 20th century, the rise of asymmetrical threats that endanger international security such as transnational terrorism, organized crime as well as narcotics trade and nuclear technology proliferation, explicitly show the interdependence of Global North and Global South in terms of security. The contemporary security environment, its complexities along with the unpredictability of threats dictate close cooperation of the countries of the Global North, especially the United States and the European Union. Organizations of collective security such as NATO, PfP, and to a certain degree European Union have repeatedly declared the necessity for closer cooperation and joint action in order to tackle negative developments that put international security at risk.
The case-study of Cyprus is a characteristic example of how the security environment transforms and evolves as a result of global political, economic and social developments. The contemporary security environment on the island, directly inter-related with Cyprus’ geographical position and politico-military situation dictates the broadening of the security agenda in order to keep up with regional as well as global challenges. In the context of modernization and broadening of its security agenda, the Intelligence infrastructure of the Republic of Cyprus can and should contribute the most to this direction:
i. The pseudo-state of “TRNC” as a destabilizing actor
The “TRNC” indisputably consists a vast security gap in the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Despite the fact that the Republic of Cyprus is a member-state of the European Union, it has not exercised effective control over the militarily occupied part of the island. Due to the rapid and radical political developments in the region, the lack of effective control on the occupied territory, the “TRNC” functions under the realm of international and European law. A number of distinguished political analysts argued that the occupied territory of Cyprus is the epicenter of illegal activities in the region, such as money laundering, human trafficking, and functions as an entry point of illegal immigrants coming from parts of the globe that are characterized by domestic turmoil and instability. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are systematically channeled to the territories that the Republic of Cyprus maintains control.
In the context of the above developments, the Intelligence Community of the Republic of Cyprus must pursue closer cooperation with international organizations of collective security, the European Union and NATO as well as with countries with experience and possession of know-hows in regards to the encountering of these issues. It is clear that the Cypriot Intelligence Infrastructure alone is not in a position to tackle and encounter a number of issues that derive from a vast security gap like the pseudo-state of “TRNC”. Thus, it must be made clear to the international community, through diplomatic channels as well as in the context of strategic alliances, that Cyprus is the easternmost border of the Western world hence, the encountering of illegal activities in the northern part of the island is in the best interest of the Western world.
ii. Al Qaeda and “TRNC”
The proximity of Cyprus to the turbulent region of Middle East and North Africa, combined with the political situation on the island, involves the danger of entrance of individuals or groups closely affiliated with the Islamic Jihad or other extremist non-state groups. Hence, the occupied territories of Cyprus can potentially function as a base for terrorist groups and as well as terrorist activities and plots that can endanger homeland security of Cyprus as well as other European countries.
The undersigned argues that states authorities of the Republic of Cyprus must pursue the integration of its counter-terrorism efforts with those of European Union and NATO. The global security environment points out the necessity for the formation of a common security agenda of the Western world, which requires joint action in regards of issues of mutual concern. Hence, the integration of Cypriot Intelligence with the appropriate Euro-Atlantic mechanisms will enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities and contribute the most to the preservation of regional security.