Turkey under pressure

The way the diplomatic hand has been dealt is a blow to Ankara, which had open support from not only Washington and London but European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn. Proposals from Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul were aimed at linking the satisfaction of Turkey’s contractual obligations to the EU, such as opening up Turkish airports and ports to Cypriot planes and ships, with approval of direct trade between the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus and more broadly, with indirect recognition for the Turkish-Cypriot regime. Naturally, Ankara is trying to keep Gul’s proposals alive, but its most recent reactions show it has not entirely ruled out the procedure set out in the Papadopoulos-Annan joint communique. Most importantly, for the time being at least, it seems there is no possibility of trying to trap Nicosia into either accepting a new Annan plan or being blamed for a breakdown, and thereby absolving Turkey of its commitments to the EU regarding recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. As it now appears, Papadopoulos’s unwavering stance over the past two years has not only put a stop to pressure and threats, but has changed the diplomatic landscape. His stance has forced all those involved to accept his demands for careful preparation, to avoid hasty moves and, of course, to reject any pressing timetable. Nicosia justifiably feels that time is on its side. Cyprus’s accession to the EU has on the one hand strengthened its negotiating position and, on the other, deactivated some of the more negative points in the Annan plan. Most importantly, Ankara is under pressure for the first time, initially to ratify and put into effect the customs union protocol with the Republic of Cyprus and then to grant it diplomatic recognition. In practice, that means Papadopoulos can bide his time.