Greek Cyprus puts ball on Turkish side: Experts

Greek Cyprus puts ball on Turkish side: Experts

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Greek Cyprus puts ball on Turkish side: Experts

Outgoing President Demetris Christofias (L) gestures as he greets his successor Nicos Anastasiades during an official transfer of power ceremony at the Presidential palace. ‘We are ready for a new relationship with Turkey in the new era. We are ready for a solution,’ Anastasiades said during his speech. AP photo

Greek Cyprus is trying to throw the ball into Turkey’s court in terms of a search for a solution to the island’s division, according to experts analyzing newly elected President Nicos Anastasiades’ messages to Ankara.

“We are ready for a new relationship with Turkey in the new era. We are ready for a solution,” Anastasiades said during his economy-dominated inaugural speech in the Parliament in Nicosia. The president, who expressed his support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, said the Cyprus issue should be solved with the aid of treaties and U.N. decisions.

“Anastasiades’ policy is meaningful and right,” Ali Faik Demir, an academic from Galatasaray University, told the Hürriyet Daily News in a phone interview.

“The situation of Greek Cyprus and Greece is obvious,” Demir said, referring to the economic crises they are dealing with. “It wouldn’t be logical to say, ‘We don’t want a solution,’ or to oppose Turkey’s EU membership.”

Anastasiades had supported the failed “yes” vote for a U.N. reunification blueprint in 2004, known as the so-called “Annan Plan,” even though it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots, resulting in a divided island joining the EU.

“The conjuncture today is different than before. Turkey is seeking alternatives to the EU like the Shanghai Organization. Greek Cyprus does not want Turkey to leave the table because then they won’t have the instrument of pressure against the European Union any more. It also doesn’t want to be the part causing economic and political trouble in the EU. Because they are in crisis, it is obvious that they won’t benefit from this situation. What they want is to say that they are in favor of a solution and throw the ball into Turkey’s court,” Demir said.

Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış invited Greek Cyprus to put words into action. “If Mr. Anastasiades is sincere on this issue, Mr. Küçük [Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister İrsen Küçük] and Mr. Eroğlu [President Derviş Eroğlu] are there, he should have dialogue with them,” Bağış told a group of journalists in Istanbul on March 1.

‘Solution for everyone’

“If they agree on a deal that is based on political equality and is approved by the people of both sides, we will stand by that deal whatever it is. We do not have a problem with Cyprus, Cyprus has an internal problem it should solve,” he said.

“In this period, if the EU supports a solution, Greece Cyprus can take steps to solve this crisis; if not it can give up and apply an ‘abandon the other’ policy,” Demir further said. “Even though Anastasiades’ commitments do not guarantee anything, we can be cautiously optimistic.”

Right after the elections, Anastasiades, a lawyer, said he aimed to solve the problem as soon as possible.

“What interests us is a solution that will not only be accepted by Greeks, but of course by Turkish Cypriots as well, particularly a solution that creates the expectation of development,” he said Feb. 24.
Eroğlu, meanwhile, downplayed his earlier comments. “As I always say, whoever is elected in Greek Cyprus, whoever sits at the negotiating table will not be much different from one another. I don’t think that he will stop demanding heavy compromises which former leaders have demanded from us. But I hope he continues his reconciliatory manner that he has shown to the outside world at the negotiating table as well,” Eroğlu said.

Another expert, meanwhile, said Greek Cyprus could no longer play the economic card in terms of pushing for a solution.

“Greek Cyprus was saying that in the event of a probable solution, Turkish Cyprus would benefit from the economic prosperity of the Greek part. They are now in middle of an economic crisis, so they don’t have this excuse any more. The EU’s support is also very important. Turkey, for its part, has to benefit from any opportunity for a solution and it has to conduct an extensive, step-by-step strategy toward the European Union during this period,” Fatma Yılmaz Elmas, an EU specialist for the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), told the Daily News.

Anastasiades, who was sworn in and officially assumed his duties on Feb. 28, has already named Ioannis Kasoulides, 64, as foreign minister. Kasoulides served as foreign minister between 1997 and 2003, helping steer Greek Cyprus toward EU accession in 2004. He is also a former government spokesman.