From ‘no problems’ to ‘no friends’ – III –
The situation in the Arab street, particularly in the streets of neighboring Syria, will be crucially important for peace, security and tranquility of the entire region. Turkey, naturally, cannot and should not turn a blind eye and ignore dastard brutality of autocratic governments of the neighborhood on their populations. It will be of course the duty of the Turkish government to take precautionary measures against probable spillover effects of the trouble next door, be they problems in the form of a refugee influx or an acute surge in terrorist activity because of a power vacuum in affected neighboring areas. Yet, a country of “no problems with neighbors” should not at least consider occupying a band of neighboring territory and converting it into a buffer zone because, however it might be described, such an action would be occupation of neighboring territory. This is, unfortunately, in the cards for 2012.
As regards Israel ties, despite persistent efforts of the across the Atlantic “matchmaker,” prospects of there being a change in the present political mentalities in Israel and for an end to the rhetorical obsessions, a must for better ties, are unfortunately dim.
Due to the “half state” Cypriot term presidency of the European Union in the second half of the year, the EU would perhaps become a “miserable union” (as President Abdullah Gül put it during a state trip to Britain). What is certain, however, is that Turkey’s EU accession process, which for some time has been de-facto suspended anyway, might suffer very seriously with Turkey confining its contacts with the EU with the Commission. A resolution of the Cyprus problem by the end of June, on the other hand, does not appear probable, particularly with the Greek Cypriot leader suggesting he might not go to a planned end of January summit with the U.N. secretary-general and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart.
What appears to be the latest hurdle (not the real reason) in Cypriot talks was the future of Morphou (Güzelyurt) and Karpasia Peninsulas. Greek Cypriots demand they be given the peninsulas, and Turkish Cypriots say “No way.” Yet, even if that hurdle is somehow eradicated, Greek Cypriots would wage a war over something else as they have no intention of sharing power with Turkish Cypriots as politically equal partners of a federal government.
The “A settlement accepted by Turkish Cypriots is welcome for Turkey” position of the Ankara government remains intact. However, unlike the period of 2003 to 2004, no one in Ankara government is any longer talking about “We have changed the 40-year-old mentality. No settlement is not a settlement.” Talking from his bed he was confined to for the past several months, former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş quipped recently, “They [the Ankara government] have come to what I was saying… That’s good… Now let’s see them in action.”
Perhaps if Cyprus were the only obstacle in front of its EU membership Ankara would have taken more courageous compromise steps, but as Demetris Christofias recently said, Cyprus is just one hurdle. There are many wars Ankara needs to wage, including its Muslim identity, vast geography and poor population.