When Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit recently threatened that if the Republic of Cyprus enters the European Union then his country will annex the occupied part of northern Cyprus, the majority of Greek officials interpreted this as no more than a typical Turkish provocation. This time, however, things are different. Ankara’s policy on the Cyprus issue has clearly led to an impasse, while the political price that it will have to pay should Ecevit’s threat be implemented will be heavy. The Cyprus problem has developed into a key issue not only for Greek-Turkish relations but for European-Turkish relations as well. The EU has pledged to proceed with Cyprus’s accession, even without a prior solution to the political dispute. For this reason, it has exerted pressure on both sides in order to achieve a settlement before accession. Turkey’s negative stance has forced the EU to warn Ankara over the negative implications of its insistence on Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s intransigent policy. If Ankara continues on the same course, the EU will have no other option but to allow Cyprus into the EU without having resolved the political problem beforehand. If this happens, Turkey will lose the upper hand. It will find itself occupying European territory and it will be forced to negotiate from an inferior position. Should Turkey decide to annex Cyprus, its European prospects will be undone. This real threat has mobilized Turkey’s political forces, which see European accession as a strategic priority. There has been an open initiative by 126 deputies who have asked for a closed-door session of the Turkish assembly on the Cyprus problem. In addition, there has been growing criticism and warnings were recently voiced by credible Turkish commentators. For the first time, they emphasized that it is Turkey which has changed its position and abandoned the idea of a bicommunal, bizonal federation to claim independence for the breakaway state and a confederal solution. For the first time, they are demanding a more flexible policy and compromises in order to avoid Turkey’s exclusion from Europe that would transform Turkey into a Mideast country. Greece has repeatedly shown that it genuinely supports Turkey’s Europeanization. It is up to the Turkish political elite to seize the opportunity and turn a dream into a tangible prospect. Unfortunately, Ankara has so far failed to live up to the circumstances.

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