Change the plan

Kathimerini from the very beginning hailed the historical significance of the European Union decision in Copenhagen to offer Cyprus an unconditional invitation to join the bloc. For this reason it joined Greeks across the world in rejoicing at this national success, which was the fruit of a long, painstaking, and nationwide effort led by Athens and Nicosia. The diplomatic wager of the island’s accession has mostly been won. But the front of the Cyprus issue remains open. For this reason, the period through the end of February is an extremely crucial one. The plan of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan lies on the table and if the Turkish side decides to enter the talks, bargaining will take place under suffocating pressure. Nicosia is seeking a settlement as soon as possible and it has thereby accepted the Annan blueprint as a basis for negotiations. This already constitutes a great compromise on its part, for it implies that it is essentially prepared to condone the political leveling of the two communities, the 82 percent of Greek Cypriots and the 18 percent of Turkish Cypriots (and the settlers that chose to remain). In any case, the plan cannot be accepted as it stands. That’s not only because it is relatively unfavorable for Greek Cypriots but also because the proposed state’s viability and functionality are flawed. Adjusting the UN plan to EU rules and principles is not only a desired goal but an imperative. Cyprus is not a post-colonial republic. It will soon be a full member of a 25-member Union. For negotiations to proceed, however, more is needed than Nicosia’s constructive stance. Turkish cooperation is also required. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has made no secret of his skepticism, but he is not the only one to have a say in this. The equilibrium in Ankara is still in flux. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, and new Prime Minister Abdullah Gul have expressed their willingness to work toward a settlement, but it is far from certain that they will be able to impose their will. The military and diplomatic establishment and its political tentacles have so far backed the leader of the breakaway state, but this does not mean it will continue to do so. Much will be decided by a crucial meeting today. It would be premature to hazard any predictions, although Washington and the EU will exercise intense pressure. The future will be decided by the outcome of the internal power play in Ankara.

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