ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Incalculable, unilateral actions of the parties to the Cyprus dispute are undermining efforts to reunify the divided island and leading to suspicions over the intention to resume full-fledged talks planned for this month and next.
French persistence in commencing joint military exercises with Greek Cypriots in the international waters of the Mediterranean drew strong reaction from Turkey, while the recent deal signed between Greek Cyprus and the United Kingdom added fuel to the tension with Ankara arguing the move which came at a time when the leaders of the two communities vowed to resume peace talks was far from being constructive.
Moreover, the Greek Cypriot parliament Friday unanimously approved a defense cooperation document signed with France in February 2007. Previously criticized by Turkey, the agreement – valid for 10 years – gives Paris the opportunity to use sea and airports in Greek Cyprus for military means.
“What we say is to come together and resolve our differences under U.N. parameters. But the Greek Cypriots are instead resorting to some other ways,” said a Turkish diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous.
It's no secret to anybody that military maneuvers coupled with the Greek Cypriot-U.K. deal have caused uneasiness on the Turkish side which was planning to resume full-scale negotiations in June. While in Ankara two months ago, Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat ambitiously heralded that talks would resume this month, considering the fact that the technical committee mechanism had already been reactivated to build confidence and pave the way for a meeting between the two leaders to handle core issues for a solution to the Cyprus problem. That was deemed as major progress given the failure of the same mechanism when former Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos, a hardliner, was in power.
“The leaders of the two communities met in March and agreed to restart technical talks in 20 days, while 20 months were not sufficient to launch them during the tenure of Papadopoulos,” a Turkish Cypriot official told the Turkish Daily News.
The positive momentum on the island that started being generated after the presidential elections in the South is now at risk of coming to a screeching halt and open to any outcome as each party tends to draw closer to their own lines after every negative step from the opposing side and indeed, news reports said Friday the negotiations were delayed to July.
“The Greek Cypriots are attempting to delay the resumption of talks. We don't have an idea about their true intentions,” said the Turkish Cypriot official.
As every step taken by the Greek Cypriots is considered a test of sincerity on the road to peace negotiations, statements made by Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias this week in Brussels are expected to further complicate the situation on the island. He said Thursday that Talat should be allowed to negotiate independently without having to check with Ankara for final approval and as a gesture of goodwill, Turkey should remove half its 43,000 troops from northern Cyprus.
The Turkish diplomat, not hesitating to reveal the concerns over Greek Cypriot maneuvers, admitted that, “such moves make us feel what the Greek Cypriots say and what they do is contradictory.”
“But what's important is that the peace process is ongoing. We don't want any deviation from this direction,” he said.
In Uganda, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said the two leaders must demonstrate strong political will to reach a solution, while third parties must act carefully and responsibly. “If the issues that are being negotiated are conveyed to the third parties before maturing during talks between the two leaders, this will undoubtedly negatively affect the process,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
Turkish Cyprus seeks OIC support
To the dislike of Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Turgay Avcı participated in a ministerial meeting of a leading Muslim group in Uganda last week.
Avcı held bilateral talks with his counterparts from the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, on the margins of the summit. Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, wants to open offices in several countries including Qatar and Oman.
But a Turkish Cypriot official said Greek Cypriot pressure complicated the plans as both countries maintained reservations for the time being. Headed by Turkish secretary general, professor Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the OIC helps efforts to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots.