Under the above title, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman (04.09.11, online) published the following commentary by Amanda Paul: “I have just returned from August holidays in Cyprus. It was an interesting time to be there as many things are happening. All are interconnected, each one impacting on the other and on Turkey.
The Greek Cypriots, together with an American partner, Nobel, are due to start exploratory drilling for gas on Oct. 1. There has also been considerable coverage in the Cypriot media over agreements signed and to be signed between Israel and Cyprus on energy and security issues, with Cyprus clearly taking advance of the continuing deterioration in Turkey’s relations with Israel.
Turkey remains far from happy about the gas venture and does not accept that Greek Cypriots should be allowed to explore this gas field and financially gain from it while the Turkish Cypriots feel no benefits. The Greek Cypriots seems to feel confident that the Turks are all bark and no bite simply because of the US involvement and the fact that the Russians have verbally supported the project. I am not so confident of this. While Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to drum up nationalist support for a new Constitution it is unlikely that Turkey will just sit and watch. However, what action Turkey may take, including as Ankara did once before, by sending their navy into the Republic of Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, remains to be seen.
Unfortunately, the development is not conducive to ongoing peace talks aimed at resolving the decade’s old Cyprus problem. A key meeting due to take place in New York on Oct. 8-9 between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities needs to show that the two sides have been seriously negotiating, otherwise the UN has threatened to pull the plug. This comes after a warning by Erdogan that if there is no solution (which Ankara squarely blames on the Greek Cypriots) by the time Cyprus takes up the rotating presidency of the EU, Turkey will freeze its relations with the club and Turkey will begin to work on “alternatives” for the future of the north. This threat was apparently meant to spur the West into pressuring the Greek Cypriots. So far I see very little evidence that it has worked.
All the Cypriots I spoke to predicted failure. While everybody seems to want peace, not many people want to compromise. It seems like talk of reunification is simply swimming against the tide. While the Greek Cypriots continue to say that it is Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu who are responsible for the lack of progress, at the same time, their leader, Demetris Christofias is also highly unpopular. Turkish Cypriots still resent his role in the failure of the 2004 Annan Plan, which the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) failed to support, while numerous Greek Cypriots told me they no longer trust him and the Government following a disastrous explosion in July at a naval base which left several people dead.
Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriots are moving towards extinction on the island, being outnumbered by tens of thousands of Turkish settlers. Many Turkish Cypriots expressed deep concern over this trend, which shows no sign of stopping. While many Turks have come to work and will return, I nevertheless felt that I was, more than ever before, in a Turkish province during my time in the north. Indeed my son innocently asked the manager of a caf? overlooking Kyrenia harbor why there were Turkish flags flying literally everywhere. He answered by saying, “Because this is part of Turkey.”
Cyprus has been divided for almost four decades and it looks like it will remain this way although it seems that neither side — particularly the Greek Cypriots — has really understood what the implications of this will be. Turkish Cypriots, but perhaps more so Turkey, seem to believe that if the blame for the failure of the talks can be pinned on the Greek Cypriots, this will improve the chances of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) being internationally recognized. However, Ban’s special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, recently said that the KKTC would never be recognized even if failure is placed at the door of the Greek Cypriots. I would agree with him because Cyprus, at the end of the day, is not the centre of the universe as many of its politicians and people seem to believe. I would not, however, rule out the possibility of some Muslim nations recognizing it under Turkish pressure.
Turkish settlers will continue to come and one day the KKTC will have a Turkish president, with Turkish Cypriots almost disappearing. Turkey will never be able to join the EU. Of course this is not very bad news for Turkey which, as an increasingly influential and powerful regional country, will remain an important partner for the West and EU membership is no longer a priority. The Greek Cypriots will lose their property and land forever; Varosha may never be returned. Security in the region will remain fragile but I believe the West will live with it. The costs, including economically, will be high for all those concerned.”