Turkey’s closed-door parliamentary debate on Cypriot and Turkish relations with the European Union yesterday did not result in a reversal of official policy. However, the mere fact that the recent period has seen open criticism by a segment of the media and the political elite of our next-door neighbor is a significant development in itself. The mounting criticism is not, of course, grounded in a set of principles based on international law. Rather, it stems from deep concerns that growing intransigence on the Cyprus issue is undermining Turkey’s European prospects. It is a fact that the Cyprus problem is a key issue not only for Greek-Turkish relations; it is also a major issue for European-Turkish relations. It is common knowledge that the EU has pledged to allow Cyprus in even without prior solution of the political dispute, and for this reason it is putting pressure on both sides for a settlement before accession. Turkey’s negative stance, however, has forced the Europeans to warn Ankara over the repercussions of its insistence on Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s intransigent policy. If Ankara continues on the same course, the EU will have no option but to accept Cyprus’s entry without having first resolved the issue, however unpalatable this would be. If this happens, Turkey will be faced with a dilemma – annexing the occupied northern territory would be a blow to European-Turkish relations. If Turkey chooses not to annex the northern part, it will have to bargain from an inferior position. Hence Turkey’s farsighted political forces want to see a change in official policy, as they deem that the present one is harming Turkish interests. In essence, they are asking for a more flexible policy and compromises in order to prevent Turkey’s exclusion from Europe. They rightly think that if they return to the previous position and accept the framework of a bizonal federation, Ankara will be let off and Western pressure will focus on Greece, in the sense that it will be asked to make painful compromises. The fact that Denktash asked for a meeting with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides is a maneuver which definitely reflects Turkey’s attempt to find a solution without losing face.

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