OPINION

A European solution

Everything points to the Cyprus issue returning soon to the diplomatic limelight. This will mark the third attempt at a full solution. The first two, ahead of the Copenhagen summit (Dec. 2002) and a few months later, before the signing of the enlargement pact, were both torpedoed by Rauf Denktash’s intransigence. This third attempt aims to reach a settlement before the island’s actual entry. This time things are different. Even belatedly, Ankara realized that its stance is at odds with its EU aspirations. This has produced a compromise between the military and the government. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Denktash both move within these contours. Turkey’s government is making diplomatic efforts to combine the uncombinable: its occupation of northern Cyprus and its EU hopes. Ankara favors negotiations and says it wants a solution by May. Yet it only accepts the Annan plan as a «starting point,» not as the basis for negotiations. Clearly, it is readying for qualitative changes. Ankara’s tactics have changed, but not its strategy. For example, it demands Alvaro de Soto’s replacement by an American mediator. In an attempt to sway Annan, Ankara agreed to hold referendums on basic principles and has tried to transfer responsibilities to Nicosia. As a result of these maneuvers, Washington asked the Greek Cypriots in public to respond with a goodwill gesture. The Greek side is determined not to allow the Cyprus issue to swerve from its UN context. It wants to impose compatibility with the EU’s acquis communautaire as a fundamental prerequisite. In short, any solution must abide by EU standards. This means that the UN plan must be purged of post-colonial elements. After May, the Greek Cypriots’ bargaining power will be reinforced. And Turkey will soon find the issue in its path, as December will bring a decision on its demand for membership talks.