Diplomatic jigsaw

The issue of Turkey’s EU membership talks, in light of Ankara’s refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, raises different questions for different states. All sides in this game of political jigsaw have their own stands, which derive from their different standpoints and strategies. Athens is naturally critical of Ankara’s intransigence and would like to see a settlement in favor of Nicosia. At the same time, the Greek government does not want to damage the warming ties with Ankara by sabotaging Turkey’s EU ambitions. The conservative administration in Athens is turning a blind eye to the absurdity of the Turkish denial in a bid to avoid tension in bilateral ties and hence risk the discussion of the so-called border disputes mentioned in the 1999 Helsinki summit conclusions. Although Nicosia acknowledges the sources of Greece’s pragmatism, it is not particularly keen to watch EU negotiations with Turkey as an EU member that is not recognized by Ankara. Turkey has its own reasons to feel unhappy. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is eager to see his country hop aboard the EU train. But the Turkish premier could neither refrain from issuing a statement of non-recognition nor concede (also on behalf of the military) the major strategic defeat of withdrawing the document under EU pressure. Notwithstanding heavy pressure by France and the Christian Democrats in Germany for a shift on Turkey’s Cyprus policy, Erdogan hopes that with the help of deft diplomatic lingo and the understanding of some hardline EU members he will keep the door open to some sort of settlement. That would enable him to save some face in the political game that has just entered the final stretch in Brussels. Any unpleasant EU surprises for Erdogan would be unwelcome in Athens.