Turkish professor on the Cyprus problem:
“I am afraid we are moving rather fast toward separation” Turkish daily Today’s Zaman (24.07.11) carries an interview by Mustafa Aydin, a professor of international relations, to the paper’s reporter Yonca Poyraz Dogan.
In his interview, Aydin referred to Cyprus. Particularly, Aydin, inter alia said: “They [the Greek Cypriots] see the situation as a minority-majority problem on the island and an occupation by Turkey. As long as they see it that way, the only possible solution is ending the ‘occupation’ and giving the Turks minority rights in a Greek majority state. No consensual, cooperative and peaceful solution will be possible until this stance of the Greek Cypriots changes. But there are other ‘solutions’. I’m afraid we’re moving rather fast toward separation.” As concerns the Cyprus problem, the interview went as follows:
“Q: Where is the Cyprus problem going?
A: The Prime Minister’s recent messages are very strong regarding Cyprus. This shows a certain level of disappointment. This psychology is understandable considering the situation the Turkish Government is in. This is the Government that took risks and changed Turkey’s long-held Cyprus policy of deadlock. Prime Minister Erdoan put his political future on the line to do that; but after all the compromises, the Annan plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots. So the Prime Minister is reacting now and trying to level the playing field, undermining Greek Cypriot policy.
Q: Can you elaborate on that idea?
A: The Greek Cypriots’ strategy is such that they clearly wish to go on with the negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan, but behaving as if the Annan plan is the basis of all talks. Their idea is to start negotiations from the Annan plan compromise, so that they could get additional compromises. However, in order to reach the Annan plan, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots made compromises. The Turkish side compromised because we thought we were going to gain something. However, the Greek Cypriots were rewarded even though they rejected the plan. So, it is not acceptable to start the negotiations from the end point of the Annan plan. If the two sides were to negotiate and exchange compromises, they should start from their earlier positions. This is the position of Prime Minister Erdogan. Secondly, the Greek Cypriots have been playing for time, holding back progress and refusing to accept any timeframes in negotiations with the Turkish side since they will hold the rotating presidency of the EU in 2012 and expect to force Turkey to give in. Prime Minister Erdogan is trying to undermine the policies of the Greek Cypriot administration. Turkey says those tactics will not have an effect in the negotiation process with the EU since accession negotiations have already been frozen, and Turkey can easily suspend relations with the EU for six months during the Greek Cypriot presidency.
Q: So what is Turkey saying exactly?
; if you want Turkish ports to be opened to Greek Cypriot shipping, then you have to give something; if you want Turkish troops to leave the island, then you have to give something, too. The time for concessions is over. Turkey will not negotiate from the Annan plan onwards. Q: Will that work? A: I am not sure it will solve the problem, but it will certainly level the playing field, which is important. Prime Minister Erdogan is trying to scale everything back.
Q: Will that position solve the Cyprus problem? Isn’t this contradictory with what the UN tells the two sides –namely, that they need to be engaged in a serious give and take?
A: The Cyprus problem will not be solved until and unless the Greek Cypriot understanding of the situation changes. They see the situation as a minority-majority problem on the island and an occupation by Turkey. As long as they see it that way, the only possible solution is ending the ‘occupation’ and giving the Turks minority rights in a Greek majority state. No consensual, cooperative and peaceful solution will be possible until this stance of the Greek Cypriots changes. But there are other ‘solutions’. I am afraid we are moving rather fast toward separation. If public opinion is important in this case, many people in northern and southern Cyprus have started to support separation more and more. Following the two Cypriot leaders’ meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva a few weeks ago, there was optimism that a deal could be possible. Ban said there will be time limits, and that the UN would stop its involvement in the issue if those limits are not respected; he even threatened with pulling back UN peacekeeping forces from the island. The time limit Ban is talking about is the spring of 2012. In order for the two sides to reach a solution by that time, they need to engage in very intense, goal-oriented negotiations. This is what the Secretary-General is trying to achieve. But if this is not realized, talks will end and the UN might pull out, and we will be back to square one. If that happens, there is no way out but separation, which will not be accepted by the European Union, the United States and the international public in general. It is a difficult situation we are in today.
Q: What would you say about the Greek Government’s stance? This is all happening at a time when Turkey and Greece are on very good terms.
A: Successive Greek Governments were able to develop good relations with Turkey only by side-lining the Cyprus issue; if they did not, they would not have been able to go ahead with their relations with Turkey. If the Greek Government becomes involved in the Cyprus issue, the Greek public will not be so amenable to the development of Turkish-Greek relations; this is a classic catch 22 –we need Greece to be involved in Cyprus to find a solution, but its involvement in Cyprus will hurt its relations with Turkey due to hostile Greek public opinion. Under these circumstances, it would be very naive to expect the Greek Government to put pressure on the Greek Cypriot side.
Q: Isn’t it going to be a big problem for the EU if the island is split?
A: The EU would not accept it. Its member countries would put economic pressure on Turkey. They would stop or suspend negotiations with Turkey, if they want to. There are probably enough European states that would support those types of policies against Turkey. But this is too dangerous even to contemplate right now. It is obvious that the Cyprus issue is set to sail through troubled waters.” [Mustafa Ayd1n’s
profile: Aydin is a professor of international relations. He is the Rector of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University as well as the president of the International Relations Council (UIK) of Turkey. He is also co-coordinator of the International Commission on the Black Sea and a member of the Greek-Turkish Forum.]