OPINION

Turkey deadlocked

The meeting of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Paris did not succeed in bringing the two sides any closer but, according to reliable sources, the countdown has started for the launch of a UN-brokered draft settlement. It’s not clear whether this will happen during the New York talks in early October or after the Turkish elections (provided that these are not deferred) and before the EU’s Copenhagen summit. Essentially, however, Turkey is sticking to its guns for a two-state solution. Officially speaking, Cyprus’s EU accession process is independent from talks on the island’s reunification but this is not really the case. The Europeans are well aware that institutionally speaking it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to exclude Cyprus from the next wave of enlargement and, for this reason, they are pressuring for an interim agreement before the Copenhagen summit. For the first time since 1974, Ankara finds itself deadlocked on the issue. Cyprus’s impending membership has shaken the political equilibrium. Ankara is caught up in a severe dilemma which is exasperated by its domestic political volatility. On the one hand, Turkey fears it would lose face if it accepted Cyprus’s membership hands down, even more so if the EU then refuses to set a date for the beginning of membership talks. On the other, it knows that the price of ill-considered military action would be heavy. The annexation of the occupied part of northern Cyprus would wreck Turkey’s relations with Greece and the EU. Ankara could adopt a more flexible stance in the talks and thereby open the door for a solution to the Cyprus dispute that would be nearer Turkish aspirations. The establishment is reluctant to do this as it would risk losing control over the Turkish-Cypriot population should Cyprus join the EU and adapt to European integration.