OPINION

Ankara’s divisions

Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz’s call to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to adopt a more conciliatory stance highlighted the ongoing rift in Turkey’s post-Kemal regime. Mesut’s remarks were strongly disapproved of by the rest of Turkey’s political circles, but the fact that such a view was expressed in public shows the depth of the division. In fact, Ankara’s pro-European officials are seeking a tactical shift rather than a reversal of the policy followed until now. They argue that by adopting a more flexible stance, Turkey will no longer be held responsible for the logjam in negotiations. Ankara will thus manage to relieve itself of Western pressure, which will be redirected at the Greek side, meaning that Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides will be asked to make painful compromises. In consequence, EU-Turkish relations will no longer be dogged by the Cyprus problem. Should Ankara keep to the same policy, the EU will have no other choice but to incorporate the Cyprus Republic without a prior solution of the dispute. If this happened, Turkey would to a large extent lose its strategic advantage on this front. It would find itself occupying European territory and be forced to negotiate from an inferior position. Were it to go ahead and annex Cypriot territory, as it has threatened to do, its EU prospects would be shattered. This threat has mobilized all Turkish forces, which regard EU membership as Turkey’s strategic priority…