OPINION

Cyprus inertia

The message delivered by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the 29th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus merely confirmed that he has abandoned any intentions he may have had – for the time being at least – to find a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the Annan plan. The message was no more than rhetorical support for the stance maintained by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. This concession is not unconnected to the political tightrope-walking act of Erdogan, who is currently attempting to undermine the mighty National Security Council. Further, the stance of the Turkish prime minister consolidates that of Denktash’s regime. Both Nicosia and Athens believe it is possible that renewed Cyprus negotiations will be launched in the first five months of 2004 before the island becomes an active member of the European Union in May. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos avoids saying it but he would prefer the accession to precede a solution. Since signing for accession, the Greek-Cypriot side has the diplomatic advantage, but after May 2004 it will have even more of a diplomatic edge in negotiations. Ankara has long stood by the dogma that the best solution for Cyprus is none at all. When Cyprus started the accession process, the Turkish regime did not manage to shake off its old habits, to rise to the challenge and adapt. Its threats came to nothing – which made the contrast between Ankara’s European aspirations and its Cyprus tactics even starker.