OPINION

Ankara’s man holds the reins

Diplomatic activity for a solution to the Cyprus issue has intensified even further as the United Nations secretary-general, the United States and the Greek government – in charge of the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency – are rushing to reach a settlement before February 28. The time frame has been set to agree with the EU schedule in order to resolve the outstanding political dispute before Cyprus and the nine other applicants can go on to sign their accession agreements on April 16. However, what these hasty officials have failed to take into consideration is that the Turkish establishment and Rauf Denktash, the breakaway state’s leader, do not map out their policy with one eye fixed on EU needs and priorities but rather with the aim of serving their national objectives as they understand them. Having failed to deal with the whole situation, the mediating powers made one more irrational move and, all of a sudden, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US envoy Thomas Weston and US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher all took the side of the Turkish-Cypriot demonstrators protesting against Denktash, whose agreement is necessary for a deal. This is an unprecedented situation. The masses have risen against their leader, the foreign powers applaud a peaceful uprising, the international press suddenly seems aware there is a problem on the island and everyone expects that Denktash is going to change his mind and succumb to public pressure. The whole thing is reminiscent of the tactics adopted by Soviet leaders who formed pressure groups in the West in order to promote their «anti-war» policy. Of course, successive Greek administrations and every prudent person have always held that a solution to the Cyprus issue could only come about on the basis of UN resolutions and only after putting strong pressure on the Turkish side – that is pressuring Turkey’s real power center rather than supporting the – no doubt courageous – demonstrators. During his visit to Athens last week, UN envoy Alvaro de Soto referred to Ankara’s willingness to cooperate for a deal on the political dispute within the UN time frame. De Soto based his judgment on his talks with the Islamic-leaning leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man who is at odds with Denktash, who is not a deputy and who, lacking an institutional role, cannot take part in foreign policy meetings. On the other hand, during the last meeting that was jointly chaired by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Denktash, Turkey’s bureaucracy designated the Turkish-Cypriot leader as the leading negotiator and future developments on the issue will depend on him and not on the will of the people.