Turkish response

The remarks by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit yesterday cast light on the manner in which Ankara intends to tackle the crucial issue of Cyprus’s upcoming EU membership. It is common knowledge that such a development will have a direct impact on Greek-Turkish relations and is indirectly linked to Turkey’s demand that the EU set a date for membership talks. The Turkish premier said: «The Greek Cypriots may accede on their own. However much we might not like this, it’s not going to be the end of the world for us.» In effect, Ecevit ruled out the possibility of Ankara causing a hot incident on the Mediterranean island in order to hamper Cyprus’s EU accession. Turkey had never openly made such a threat but still stressed that they would respond to such a development – language which was open to various interpretations. The only specific threat that Turkey has repeatedly issued is that it will annex the occupied territory in the northern section of the island should Cyprus enter the EU without a prior solution to the political question. True, the political elite of the post-Kemal regime has not made such specific statements over the past year. They have probably realized that doing this would incur more harm than good. It has been clear from the start that the international community would not recognize an annexation of the breakaway state. Ankara has received the message, from all sides, and it has recently tried to adapt to it without giving up its original intentions completely. Ecevit was clear enough when he said that «on the issue of Cyprus, we have to resist until the end.» He also made sure he criticized Turkish intellectuals and politicians who have pushed for a compromise solution. The most interesting part of Ecevit’s comments concern the ways in which Ankara means to respond. The scenario of direct annexation may have been ruled out, but Turkey still favors a milder alternative. This was underscored by Ecevit who said: «The TRNC cannot remain in despair for ever… There are examples: the autonomous island states which belong to England and Denmark. They have their own flags, their own laws.» It seems that the post-Kemal regime plans to respond to Cyprus’s accession by connecting the breakaway state to Turkey at the institutional level. In truth, however, the intensity of Turkey’s reaction will be determined by the way in which the EU will handle EU-Turkish relations.