OPINION

Commentary

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem’s recent visit to Athens proved to be nothing but a short lull in the war of inflammatory remarks on the Cyprus issue that Turkish politicians have unleashed recently. A few days ago, we were threatened with Turkey’s annexation of the occupied part of Northern Cyprus if Cyprus were allowed into the EU. Yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said that if the two communities lived together, the Greek Cypriots would attack and occupy the houses of the Turkish Cypriots in an outbreak of ethnic violence. This was a clear attempt to, on the one hand, resurrect the traditional prejudices of the Turkish public and, on the other, to intimidate the Europeans into thinking that accession without a prior solution to the political dispute will cause undesired political perplexities. In reality, for the first time Ankara has been trapped by its own intransigence. The prospect of accession has transformed the terms of politics. Ecevit is not, of course, worried about the fate of the Turkish Cypriots. He is more concerned with Turkey’s geopolitical control of the Eastern Mediterranean through northern Cyprus. His own words betray this. Whoever looks at the map of the eastern Mediterranean can easily see that the security of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ is very important not only for the security of Turkish Cypriots but also for the security of Turkey itself. Now that time is running short, the EU is making intense efforts to solve the Cyprus problem so that it will not have to inherit it. Its efforts, however, have come up against Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s unwillingness to negotiate. For this reason, it is warning Turkey that should it continue on the same course, it will undermine its own European prospects. Athens and Nicosia should ignore Ankara’s efforts to recreate a tense climate to transcend its own political deadlock. For the time being, it is Turkey which has the problem. Turkey’s negative stance is making things easier for Greece which, given the coming accession, cannot afford to bear the cost of a failure. But if Denktash returns to negotiations with a more flexible attitude, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides will probably have to face several acute dilemmas. Western pressures will be mainly targeted on Nicosia which will be subjected to behind-the-scenes blackmail that if it does not make the required compromises, the Europeans will blame it for the failure of negotiations and hence breach their Helsinki commitment.