Friday, 30 October 2009

Do not appease Turkey

Cyprus’ President Demetris Christofias reminded the Europeans that the policy of appeasement never pays. Instead of solving problems it creates even more and it frustrates old ones. He asked them to remember where London’s policy to appease Hitler eventually had led.

He was of course referring to Europe’s attempt at a balancing act over Turkey’s refusal to abide by its obligations to the EU as candidate country and Europe’s wish to keep Turkey on track towards its European integration. This is more than evident in its progress report on Turkey, where the British theory of “constructive ambiguity” is gloriously applied.

It is true that if one ignores all reference to Turkey’s responsibility to the EU in relation to Cyprus, what one is left with is a progress report that makes it impossible for Turkey to join unless its policies and attitudes undergo a serious overhauling. Those who hide behind Cyprus’ justified insistence on taking steps against Turkey in order to make her conform with her obligations to defend Turkey’s poor credibility record, should re-examine their position.

This is where the appeasement tactics come into play. Even the authors of the progress report felt compelled to observe that “Turkey continued to express public support for fully fledged negotiations between the leaders of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities under the good offices of the UN Secretary-General aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded.”

In reality however, Turkey is still very far from supporting the negotiations currently going on between the leaders of the two communities on the island, Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat. It is true that Ankara states publically often enough that Turkey supports the procedure under the United Nations which began a year ago. But does Turkey support the parameters of a comprehensive solution agreed upon by the two Cypriot leaders?

When they met on 23rd May 2008 in the presence of Mr. Zerihoun the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the island, the two leaders reaffirmed that the basis for a solution is the establishment of a bi-communal and bi-zonal federal Cyprus, with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship, with political equality, as prescribed by UN SC Resolutions. This was adopted by the United Nations and its efforts to facilitate this procedure rely entirely on what the two leaders have agreed on. One would assume that Turkey’s support to the UN efforts would aim at promoting a solution within the parameters agreed by the two leaders. Unfortunately, one would be wrong to assume this. Turkey supports something entirely different, something that Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat have not agreed upon. Turkey supports –with daily public statements by all its top leaders, the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the rest. What they want is two separate states, which would have limited cooperation at the top; Confederation, in other words.

As it was to be expected, this position put Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader who negotiated the agreed parameters with Christofias, in a spot. What is he supposed to do, ignore what Ankara says and go on as if nothing was said, or conform to the directives from Ankara and the Turkish perceptions of a confederal solution? The fact is that there are 50,000 Turkish troops in the occupied north of the island. There are also more than 200,000 Turkish settlers. Without the economic support of Ankara, the north would not survive. Hence, Talat cannot afford to ignore Turkey’s views. And therefore, one wonders if Mr. Talat is free to negotiate with Mr. Christofias. This may explain why Mr. Talat presents at the negotiating table proposals that run contrary to the agreed parameters.

This explains also why what Christofias says is valid. That the international community and in particular the EU should turn to Turkey and demand that their support to the UN process should also be accompanied with manifest support to what the two leaders have agreed as the parameters of a solution. And this support should be evident and practical. It also explains why the relevant reference in the EU progress report is somewhat misleading, or it tells half the story.

The fact is that Turkey holds the key that could unlock progress on Cyprus and consequently relief EU-Turkish relations of some of the tension generated by Turkey’s stubbornness. And appeasing Turkey would not make the problems go away.

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