OPINION

Turkish rigidity backfires

Sticking to its pet tactics, Turkey wants to have the cake and eat it. With Washington’s backing, it has requested that the EU announce a date for membership talks at the upcoming Copenhagen summit. In exchange, Ankara promises to accept the EU’s position on the Euroforce in 2003 as well as the UN plan on Cyprus. In other words, Turkey tries to sell two proposals that are favorable to it as compromises. A few weeks ago Athens backed down on the Euroforce (to facilitate Cyprus’s EU accession), which in effect brought the EU’s position very close to the Istanbul text that was signed by Turkey. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had assured EU states that if Greece accepted the proposal, Ankara would willingly embrace it. He was obviously not familiar with Turkish diplomacy. This happened even as the weight of the Euroforce has been reduced after NATO’s decision to set up a rapid deployment force. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan is unfair also. It not only puts the 18 percent of the population and the 82 percent on a par, essentially recognizing the fait accompli of the Turkish invasion; it also offers Turkish-Cypriot and Turkish settlers unconditional EU membership and economic benefits. Greek Cypriots are called upon to shoulder the economic burden and take the risk of an unviable solution, the only tangible trade-off being the return of territory which, according to former Turkish General Kenan Evren, was more than originally envisaged. Some think the momentum of European integration will progressively knock down all obstacles between the two communities. But that’s only an expectation. Turkey’s blackmail tactics will sorely test EU tolerance. If Ankara keeps to the same line and Athens refuses to give in, Turkish intransigence will likely backfire. Cyprus will join the EU and Greek Cypriots will be favorably positioned.