Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Anything but Turkey

“Turkey must also work to support a Cyprus settlement and open its ports to the Republic of Cyprus as it has committed to do. A Cyprus settlement would have benefits extending well beyond the island, from aviation safety to more efficient EU/NATO co-operation. Negotiations on a comprehensive settlement have now reached an intensive phase and we welcome the commitment of President Christofias and Dr. Eroğlu to work within the UN framework for a successful outcome.” This excerpt is from a joint statement titled “The EU and Turkey: steering a safer path through the storms.” Signed by foreign ministers of eleven EU member countries, including Germany, the lengthy text was otherwise filled with praise of Turkey's democratic progress and economic success. It looked apparent that it aimed to diffuse tension in Turkish-EU relations and weigh in with regard to the steady attempts by the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus to block “positive elements” -- as envisioned by the EU Commission -- aimed to improve the accession negotiations, currently in deep freeze. Mind the words “commitment of President Christofias and Dr. Eroğlu…” in the statement. After the tripartite meeting between the two in New York in late October, the world was given the “autopilot” information that all had gone well, an international conference was planned and progress had been noted, etc. When I asked about it to my reliable (i.e. “independent”) and extremely well-informed Greek Cypriot sources in Cyprus recently, all I heard was loud laughter. I was referred to reports that Christofias had assured his party comrades and others in the administration in closed door meetings, “You should not worry, nothing new will happen, I made no promises, we noted no progress at all.” “Commitment?” In a recent interview with Alithia newspaper, Nikos Rolandis, a former foreign and trade minister of (Greek) Cyprus, admitted that “by allowing things to become worse, we have now come to the threshold of final division (of the island).” “I do not wish to give you the bad news, “Rolandis added pessimistically, “but I believe that we missed the train. For the solution on the island and in order to stave off all the problems we should have called in Greece, Turkey and the UK [three guarantor powers] to assist because with the shuttling of Christofias back and forth in the negotiations, there will not be a solution even in a century.” Both Greek and Turk Cypriots who genuinely believe and fight for unification agree that Christofias simply plays the game of delays because he is politically afraid, and more importantly, he is content with the leverage his administration has in the EU. “Nothing will happen until (Greek) Cyprus takes over the presidency in July 2012; Greek Cypriots in their political blindness know no other thing than to push it to the limits,” a Greek Cypriot, deeply knowledgeable about the process told me. On the other hand, Turkey, as revealed by a Turk Cypriot, gave a free hand to Dr. Eroğlu, leader of North Cyprus, on all issues except one. “Ankara is only interested in security in all six key chapters,” he told me. “But they lost hope as well. It is an unfair game, it is very obvious.” (Greek) Cyprus and Greece recently blocked Turkey from taking part in the key discussions among the EU ministers on Syria. This took place while a top-level source in the foreign ministry in Ankara told me, “I have never experienced such intensity with my American counterparts these days; everybody there calls everybody at every level, ministers and all.” From this contrast, one can only draw the conclusion that a tiny EU member manages to obstruct a pivotal regional power from sharing its valuable data and ideas with the union, paralyzing its influence over crucial developments that might reshape the world. The same happens as you read this article. (Greek) Cyprus solely focuses on cleansing all the positive remarks from the EU statements referring to Turkey in blind intensity. Eleven EU minister certainly act in good will when they call on Turkey to “support a Cyprus settlement, and open its ports to the Republic of Cyprus as it has committed to do.” But, I am sure, they are also fully aware of the absurdity of the situation. Is it rational that Turkey opens its ports as long as the EU fails in its commitment to ease the sanctions over North Cyprus? Is it logical that Ankara recognizes Cyprus as it is before being sufficiently convinced that UN-led talks will soon enough come to a conclusion over the destiny of the island -- “divorce” or “marriage?” Can anything really happen, until the UN process becomes serious, with a strict (I mean, “strict”) deadline? These questions have clear answers, but they must be facing, more than others, France and Germany. How should this be played? How serious are they? Where is the endgame? Rolandis is right; the train has been missed. The issue of Cyprus is nothing other than a tool to keep Turkey out of the EU. Christofias is afraid but clever: He plays it gladly, by creating a new balance between the EU and (his old ally) Russia. Anything but Turkey… 2011-12-06

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