OPINION

Commentary

Regardless of the reasons that prompted Ankara to return to negotiations on the Cyprus problem (without insisting on prior recognition of the breakaway state in occupied northern Cyprus) and indirectly to accept Cyprus’s European Union accession process, and whatever the Turkish government’s true objectives, neither Nicosia nor Athens could afford to reject the dialogue that Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash appeared to accept. Is this a change in Turkey’s policy, a tactical maneuver, or an attempt to spring a diplomatic trap with the aim of obstructing Cyprus’s entry in the next wave of EU enlargement? Answers to these questions will inevitably surface once the talks recommence on January 15, which will probably also reveal the ways that international mediators intend to pressure the two parties by linking a solution of the dispute to the island’s EU entry. The talks are crucial for Cyprus’s future, primarily because of their timing. Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides’s responsibility is huge, but so is Athens’s, as it cannot afford to maintain a neutral stance toward any of Nicosia’s moves or decisions over the coming year. It would be premature to forecast the outcome of the new round of negotiations, especially as Ankara has been giving mixed signals; the government seems to have made a turn, but public remarks by Turkish officials so far indicate no change in Turkey’s basic demands as regards the content of a political solution. Should the forthcoming talks lead to a proposed solution, this would unavoidably involve a compromise rather than a diplomatic triumph for Greece. With this in mind, it would be naive to believe that future developments will be greeted with equanimity by the political elite in Nicosia and Athens. The political scene will be marked by intense skirmishing, but the only real question concerns the quality of the political discourse. The coming period will inevitably see many secret diplomatic initiatives. But since the Cyprus problem will shortly become the top-priority national issue for Greece, the country’s political parties would be better off dealing with it seriously and proactively, rather than merely awaiting crucial developments on which they can then safely take sides, creating nationalist mayhem in the domestic political arena.