Defeated hopes

Today is the 29th anniversary of the second round of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus which resulted in the occupation of nearly half of the island’s territory. One cannot forget that grim day since, though the decades go by, the Cyprus issue remains unresolved and the occupying troops in place. Costas Simitis’s administration has invested efforts in finding a solution to the dispute by means of Turkey’s future accession to the EU. The final months of the previous year and the early months of the current one carried strong hopes that something was about to change in Ankara’s stance on the Cyprus issue by using Turkey’s EU prospects as a lever for pressure. Unfortunately, developments did not vindicate these expectations. Moreover, recent moves have shown a worsening of Turkey’s stance. Regardless of government efforts to put all the blame on breakaway leader Rauf Denktash and the army (which is purportedly pressuring the benign Turkish premier), the gist is that the Turkish elite is trying to reformulate its strategy in the new international environment, and freezing any movement on the Cyprus issue. The current lull in Turkey’s European push has prompted actions that have deepened the chasm between the two sides. Denktash yesterday said that he no longer recognizes the passports of the Cyprus Republic and has banned Turkish-Cypriot holders of these documents from moving in and out of the breakaway state. Ankara does not allow Turkish-Cypriot holders of Cypriot passports to travel from Turkey to third countries. The signing of a so-called «framework agreement» for a customs union between Turkey and the breakaway state last week was another negative development. Similarly, the repeated air space violations and intrusions into the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) by Turkish fighter jets leave little room for optimism. Ankara deems that such demeanor will have no impact on its European aspirations. Athens must make it clear that this is not the case. Parliamentary spokesman Apostolos Kaklamanis warned Ankara, «No accession negotiations will take place as long as a part of Cyprus is still under the Turkish yoke.» Its one thing to show our EU peers that Greece is not a stumbling block to Turkey’s EU course but it is quite another to let Cyprus fall prey to Turkish devices. What is called for is Turkey’s compliance with EU principles and not European indifference to Ankara’s illegal and predatory behavior.