Turkish maneuvers

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) may have stopped short of officially recognizing the breakaway state in northern Cyprus, but it did take a significant step in that direction. Notably, the OIC referred to the Turkish-occupied part of the island as the «Turkish-Cypriot state.» Washington had, no doubt, given the green light for this development. The US has already announced its willingness to upgrade the breakaway state’s international status, in the name of lifting its international isolation. The Americans are seeking to set a negative diplomatic precedent and thereby pressure Nicosia and thwart Greek-Cypriot resistance. They hope this will eventually lead to the endorsement of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Cyprus plan in a second referendum. Their aim is not full recognition; that would run contrary to the Security Council resolutions while also leading to a fait accompli that would tilt developments on to a wholly new track. The upgrading of the breakaway state’s status is not only the outgrowth of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by US diplomats. The efforts of Turkish diplomats were facilitated by the Islamic roots of the Justice and Development Party and by their pursuit of a more active Turkish role in the Muslim world. Most importantly, they were bolstered by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rebuke of Israeli policies against the Palestinians, particularly the recent raids in Gaza. Ankara even recalled its Turkish ambassador for consultations. Our eastern neighbor faces serious challenges. As an EU candidate member, Turkey was obliged to expand its customs union agreement with the EU so as to include the 10 newcomers. It did so, but excluding the Republic of Cyprus, which it does not officially recognize. Ankara’s actions were indicative, and doomed to fail from the start. Our EU peers have given a strong warning to Ankara, asking it to complete negotiations for a customs union with Nicosia, which will likely be included in the conclusions of the next summit meeting. Driven by its own interests on Cyprus, Britain tried in vain to avert such a development. The other member states were left with no option, as acceptance of the Turkish demand would wreck the Union’s very institutions and procedures. London pays little interest to these, because of its aversion to the vision of an ever-closer union. Meanwhile, US and British diplomats are working on the EU giving Turkey a date for the start of accession talks in December.