Ankara piles on the pressure

Ankara’s diplomatic machinery is in full throttle over the Cyprus issue in the international arena. Despite the ongoing political crisis, the Turkish establishment has stuck to its guns over the Cyprus question and over its conditions for Cyprus’s EU membership. Ankara does not appear to feel that its pro-European orientation or the Helsinki decision mandate a move away from the intransigence of the previous decade – quite the reverse, in fact, as the Turkish elite is adopting an aggressive stance toward the EU. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit recently asked the EU to cut its «useless» ties with the Republic of Cyprus in an attempt to neutralize the Greek side and facilitate the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem. As long as Ankara fails to meet its goal – the recognition of two states on the island – it will do everything to hinder Cyprus’s EU accession. The aim is clear and was set out politically as early as 1995. Shortly after the EU-Turkey customs union and the beginning of membership talks between Cyprus and the EU were agreed upon, on 6 March 1996, Turkey said that it will never accept Cyprus’s accession before Turkey becomes an EU member. Today, the Greek-Cypriot side is being pressured to accept a settlement that bows to Ankara’s terms. Officially, Brussels has no second thoughts about Cyprus’s accession but the possibility is being discussed backstage. The Greek government is anxiously trying to avert this prospect and is asking the EU to set a date for the beginning of EU accession talks with Turkey. In this light, the meeting between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Greek-Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Paris tomorrow is crucial. Yet only a small portion of the Greek press seems concerned, while politicians have avoided taking a clear position, as usual.

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