OPINION

Complications

The ongoing reluctance by the Turkish side to accept United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint as a basis of negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus narrows the already tight time frame for achieving a settlement before the Copenhagen summit. Ankara and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are, no doubt, being pressured to change their stance, but it would be premature to make any predictions. A great deal of consultation took place at Nato’s Prague summit but without yielding any tangible outcome. In its attempt to extract a date for the beginning of EU membership talks at Copenhagen, Turkey has resorted to blackmail diplomacy. It refused to accept the EU’s position on Union plans for a rapid reaction force despite the fact that the plans have been adapted to meet Turkish demands. Turkey may well extract commitments on its demand and then change its course. The Euroforce issue can be resolved, even immediately, but the Cyprus one cannot. Even if the Turkish side accepts the Annan plan as a basis for negotiations, much precious time will have been lost, making the prospect of a settlement before Copenhagen appear grim. It should be remembered that Nicosia and Athens accepted the Annan plan as a basis for negotiations and not on a «take it or leave it» basis. They are prepared to start with negotiations right away, but not facing the specter of blackmail dilemmas. And by no means can they accept any connection between Cyprus’s EU membership and the progress of reunification talks. However, even if the Turkish side gives a positive answer to the UN secretary-general’s first question, it is far from certain that it will display moderation and a genuine will to bridge differences. The opposite seems more likely. It is indicative of the situation that the leader of Turkey’s new governing party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not hesitate to request the postponement of Cyprus’s accession at least until the Thessaloniki summit next July. The fact that the Turkish side wants to have its cake and eat it too does not mean that it will get to do so. Its negative stance on the Cyprus issue could well bring the opposite result – meaning to remove any lingering reservations in European capitals about admitting Cyprus without first seeing a solution to the island’s political dispute.