OPINION

Dinner diplomacy

The new round of «dinner diplomacy» tonight between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will not, of course, determine the outcome of the dispute, but it is by no means insignificant. Denktash’s visit will affect the overall climate and therefore it carries considerable political weight. It is in the interest of both sides to avoid taking the blame if negotiations prove fruitless, which is a likely prospect. Hence they must both keep the pretexts. It is indicative of the situation that the opposition parties and Archbishop Chrysostomos are making a joint effort with the government to prevent protest rallies against Denktash’s visit from escalating into violence. Turkish propaganda would clearly rush to exploit any such episodes in order to cultivate the impression that it is the Greek Cypriots who are blocking the solution. The opening of direct talks on January 16 under the United Nations umbrella in Nicosia will end the present deadlock but will not guarantee a solution. It is an open secret that Turkey has changed its tactics and agreed to enter the talks by abandoning its previous condition over prior recognition of the breakaway state when it realized that its intransigence led it to an impasse. On top of the unsustainable diplomatic cost, Turkey realized that it had facilitated rather than halted Cyprus’s EU entry. So far, however, there is no sign that Turkey’s change of tactics actually stems from a genuine change of policy. Rather, both the official statements by Turkish officials and the memorandum that the Turkish-Cypriot leader attempted to pass on to Clerides during their first meeting demonstrate the opposite. Notably, Cyprus’s Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that if Denktash enters the talks without first abandoning his position on a confederal solution, the dispute will not be resolved. Overcoming the present impasse would be in the interest of both communities, but prospects do not seem very optimistic. The prospect of Cyprus’s EU accession in the next three years shapes favorable conditions for smooth coexistence but this runs against the wishes of the post-Kemal regime. Ankara’s ultimate motive is not to protect the Turkish-Cypriot community but rather to win geopolitical control of the island. Ankara believes that if the entire island enters the EU, the momentum of European integration will eliminate its own control even if some kind of Turkish military force remains on the island. But he had already rejected proposals by the same committee – whose function is purely consultative – for reductions in the higher taxable property values implemented in March 2001. Fotiadis explained this by saying that «the committee’s opinion was not convincing, as it failed to give comparative figures.»