Erdoğan increases stakes for Cyprus while army is no longer a pretext

Erdoğan increases stakes for Cyprus while army is no longer a pretext

Whether the near collective resignation of the leadership of the Turkish Armed Forces was the last battle of a long war or the beginning of a new one, this will take some time to determine. Certainly this year’s meeting of the Supreme Military Council or YAŞ, which starts today and ends on Thursday, will give us some hints as to what extent the Erdoğan government intends to diminish the influence of the military in the affairs of the state. Most probably, a lot.

But even if the unprecedented events of last Friday were a master plan by the military to cause maximum damage to the AKP government, what appears to have been provided – at least for now – was a perfect segue to the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to appeal to the nation last Saturday asking for everybody’s contribution in order to draft a new democratic constitution, “free from the democratic shames of the past” – a direct hit on the military for its past record of overthrowing civilian governments. It also gave him the opportunity to promote his own idea of a constitution which would transform the present system of government to a presidential one – with himself as the obvious candidate. I am not sure whether all of these are pointing to the right direction for a more democratic Turkey – as the spokesperson for the EU rushed to point out. They are certainly showing that further concentration of power is gathering under one institution – the President – and that at the same time the other fundamental institution of the Turkish state, the military, is being stripped of its duties as guardians of the regime and is being marginalized.

Historically, the military in Turkey has had a major role in the affairs of the country. It was also thought to be a major player in certain foreign policy matters which were considered as a matter of national interest. Cyprus and the relations with Greece had been issues where the Turkish military had traditionally had its say providing sometimes an excuse for Turkish politicians to justify their tough stance.

Very soon after his impressive electoral victory of the 12th of June, Tayyip Erdoğan and his foreign minister Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu, took up the issue of Cyprus and adopted a tougher line both against the Greek Cypriots and, through them, towards the EU. They openly threatened by freezing their negotiations with the EU, if Cyprus takes up its term as president of the EU in the second half of 2012. With Cyprus in a domestic political and economic turmoil at the moment, the Greek Cypriots are seeing now that they have to deal with a much tougher interlocutor in the face of Tayyip Erdoğan. The well-known diplomatic axioms of the past that “the politicians are willing, but the Turkish generals do not allow them to be more flexible”, cannot apply any longer. Freshly confirmed to power as a prime minister by an impressive third electoral victory, Tayyip Erdoğan is heading now for a presidency while pushing the military back to their barracks.

And I wonder whether the Greek Cypriots –and the Greeks for that matter- would find this popularly elected absolute leader more willing to give away any ground on the negotiating table than the intransigent Turkish generals