Turkey’s maneuver on the Cyprus issue

Turkey’s new proposal on the Cyprus problem has provoked intense concern in Greek and Cypriot government circles. Unfortunately, it is of little significance whether the 10-point plan projected by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is compatible with international law or even honest. There is no doubt that it is merely a reiteration, in different terms, of Turkey’s established stance on Cyprus, one aimed at undermining the position of the Greek Cypriots. Thus it is little more than a maneuver. It also clarifies Ankara’s intention to win time in order to evade its commitments to the EU and make a show of its desire to secure the swiftest possible solution to the island’s ongoing political problem. Furthermore, it shows that Turkey wants to set the Cyprus issue outside the EU framework. Of greater significance is the reaction to the proposal by the international community: Washington, London, Brussels and the United Nations welcomed it, in fact virtually congratulating the Turkish government. Indicative of this stance was British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s whistle-stop tour of Athens, Nicosia and Ankara; Britain’s chief diplomat blatantly ignored Greek-Cypriot sensitivities, insisting on meeting with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the so-called «presidential palace» in northern Nicosia. In Ankara, Straw said the EU had warmed to Gul’s proposal; and in Athens, he described as positive Ankara’s initiative, which aims to dodge Turkey’s obligations to open up its seaports and airports to Cypriot vessels and planes in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. So Turkey’s main aim, to seem willing to compromise, was met thanks to Straw’s deft management of its public relations.

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