They can be confident: President Erdogan will continue to bring every new round of talks on Cyprus to a dead end, even without their assistance.
They must resist the temptation of claiming part of the credit.
For all the very laudable, indeed indefatigable, endeavours of the Cypriot President and his government, a new round of negotiations on the long standing issue of Cyprus collapsed, a week ago, at Crans-Montana in Switzerland
For once, the verdict was unanimous: Ankara’s denial to concede even the most vague and hypothetical admission that the occupation of Northern Cyprus and the regime of the Tripartite Guarantee, were to come to an end, gradually but totally, did not leave much space for a new progress of the negotiating process. Μore importantly, it became obvious that the Turkish side will, fundamentally, lack the will at a settlement while its options in the Middle East remain uncertain and confused –not least because of its own maximalism.
It was sad but not a surprise, as no one could have hoped for anything else after having observed the erratic regional hyperactivity of President Erdogan’s rising autocratic regime, aimed at a de facto revision of important provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne.
A regime bitterly critical of Ataturk’s “concessions” in the aftermath of World War I, when Turkey was at her weakest, can certainly not tolerate a Turkish retreat anywhere. Furthermore, Cyprus remains a suitable and comparatively safe theatre of potential conflict, usefully available whenever Ankara should feel the need to escalate pressure in order to obtain satisfaction elsewhere. The stakes of attempting extortion, locally, in Syria and Iraq −the areas of Turkey’s primary interest at this moment−, would be high as it could entail direct confrontation with the US.
But then, why, one wonders, did the Hellenic government, in the knowledge of all this –as they should have been-, think it opportune to intervene in a very stern mood, at a relatively early stage of the negotiations at Mont-Pelerin, while optimism, either sincere or politically correct, was still been expressed by both the government of Cyprus and the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community. Why did the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece find it constructive to recapitulate terms and conditions, benchmarks and red lines, certainly not incorrect but uttered in a wording which had seemed ment to provoke, as early as possible, Ankara’s negative reaction.
It looked as if the Greek Minister had feared that a lucidus intervalis of Turkish good sense could not be, entirely, ruled out and, thus, had to be .. preempted! Such an interval of lucidity on the Turkish side was not, however, to be feared: Ankara’s position is to remain inflexible with or without any verbal encouragement from the “Patriotic Left” in Athens; As to the President of Cyprus, he is sufficiently cautious and dignified to know when to leave the table in the face of arrogance, even though his urge to keep the process going may have, at times, seemed excessive.
Nevertheless, the question remains: If and why should the government of Greece reclaim a patronizing influence on the government of the Republic of Cyprus.
Let no one forget that, back in 1974, Greek and Greek-Cypriot military forces, under the control of the dictatorial regime of Athens, attempted to overthrow the legitimate government of Cyprus, offering Ankara the pretext to invade the island. Doubtlessly, that was no more than a pretext, but a rather solid one and formally, adequate at the very beginning. It is very doubtful if, without it, any Turkish government would have taken the risk of aggression, totally unprovoked.
Ever since then, ever since the fall of the dictatorship and the restoration of parliamentary legitimacy in Athens –it is didactic, to remember that this too was a direct consequence of the Turkish intervention in Cyprus-, all Greek governments had scrupulously and consistently avoided all interference with Greek-Cypriot policy making. The rule had been established that Cypriot governments in Nicosia, alone, define strategy and decide and Greece complies with and supports their decisions.
Iconically, the Coffee Anan Plan had been rejected by Greek-Cypriots at a referendum, in 2004, without any practically significant involvement of the Hellenic government –then under Constantine Karamanlis−, notwithstanding the latter’s pathetic exercises at obscure and cryptic prose to insinuate support to.. both camps, the willing and the rejectionists..
Athens must revert to that golden rule of non-interference with Greek-Cypriot decision making.
The stalwarts of the Greek “Patriotic Left” must no fear. They must not fret, they must not agitate, there is nothing for them to spoil. They can be confident: President Erdogan will continue to bring every new round of talks on Cyprus to a dead end even without their assistance. They must, however, resist the temptation of claiming part of the credit..
- C. M.