OPINION

No footnotes

The deadline that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan set for both sides to reply whether they accept his proposal as a basis for negotiations expired without any response from the Turkish side. The illness of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash does not fully justify this stance. If this were the only obstacle there would still be an answer, as everyone knows that crucial decisions are taken in Ankara. Remarks by Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot officials on the issue leave no doubt that there is a political problem. Similarly, they leave no doubt that Ankara is trying to tie a decision on Annan’s proposal to an EU commitment that the 15 Union members will announce a date for membership talks at the looming Copenhagen summit, or at lest make a significant step in that direction. Greece backs the Turkish demand but it’s not up to Athens to decide. Nor does Greece have any interest in backing the objectives of Turkey’s foreign policy. Greece’s position is, and has to remain, clear and unshaken. It hopes that Turkey will respond and that the negotiations will lead to a commonly accepted solution before the Copenhagen summit. But if this is not feasible, the process of Cyprus’s accession has to continue uninterrupted. Athens has every reason to make it clear on all sides that there will be no EU expansion without Cyprus and that the lack of agreement on a Cyprus settlement cannot possibly block the enlargement process. It is evident to almost everyone that intense diplomatic exchanges are taking place on the issue. For this reason, it is of particular significance that Greece make it clear to its EU peers that it will reject any proposal in Copenhagen that will disengage – even indirectly – Cyprus’s course from that of the other nine candidates. The haste of the secretary-general and of the governments that are guiding his actions is understandable. They are trying to exploit the diplomatic momentum which has been spawned by the upcoming summit meeting. But they cannot blackmail the Greek side to complete the negotiations within such a short time frame. Because to believe the leader of the breakaway state, the Turkish side will only respond after 10 days and only if Denktash has recovered.