Russian-Greek alliance working against solution in Cyprus?

Russian-Greek alliance working against solution in Cyprus?

I have never understood the popularity that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras enjoyed in Turkey.

It’s not that I have any particular problem with Communists, but Turkey’s majority conservatives have never liked even their own Communists. 

Tsipras’ policies, as well as Turkey’s reaction to them, only confirmed my firm conviction that Turks and Greeks are equally emotional, to the extent of being delusional.

Take the case when Tsipras called a referendum in 2015 for a deal with Greece’s creditors, which he had described as a humiliation. Greeks said “no” to the deal and cheered until the early morning hours but then watched in silence as Tsipras signed a deal that was little different from what was envisaged before the referendum.

Similarly, Turkish ruling elites love Tspiras while turning a blind eye to the fact that he named anti–Turkey hawks to the posts of defense and foreign ministries.

Do Turkey’s rulers like Tsipras because of his defiance of Europe? Turkey is at odds with Europe, so anyone challenging Europe is Ankara’s natural friend? Like Greece? Like Russia?

If that’s the calculation, it really does not bode well for Turkey’s national interests.

Look at what’s going on in Cyprus. The Turkish and Greek sides on the divided island have reached unprecedented levels of convergence even on the most sensitive issues. Disagreements over the rotating presidency, how much land will be left to the south, and the security guarantees continue, but it seems that the two sides are so willing to reach an agreement that they keep discussing different formulas to bridge the gap. 

In that context, one would expect Turkey and Greece, the two guarantors, to play a constructive rather than obstructive role.  

Turkey’s line has long been: “Whatever the Turkish Cypriots accept will be acceptable to us.” Greece’s line, meanwhile, was also: “Nicosia decides, Athens supports.” 

That was the case until Tspiras came to power. Now, Greece has even surprised (and angered some) Greek Cypriots with its latest moves. 

When Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades went to Athens ahead of the second round of intercommunal talks in Switzerland, Tsipras said Athens would not attend a multi-party conference if its aim was not the abolition of guarantees. That was clearly a non-starter. Writing in the Cyprus Mail, Loucas Charalombous said:

 “In short, they wanted this conference to have the desired result before it even convened. So why even convene this conference if there were no issues to discuss?” 

Why has Athens changed its previous position? It is no secret that despite the cold war between Russia and the EU, Tsipras has kept warm relations with Russia. So warm, in fact, that Western Europeans are frustrated by Greece’s defense of Russian positions within the bloc.

Turkey’s ruling elites should therefore seriously consider the possibility of Russian influence on Greece’s Cyprus policy. After all, it is no secret that Russia does not want to see a solution in Cyprus. A solution would not only mean the consolidation of a Western defense system in the Mediterranean, since there will be increased coordination between NATO and the EU. A settlement would also mean the entrance of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources to the European market.

But Turkey’s ruling elites are so obsessed with the failed July 15 coup attempt, and so fixated on their survival, that their anger at Europe and joy over the so-called Russian support following the coup attempt is making them delusional. Apparently we now love Russia, even if it is behind the tragedy in Syria.

We will also love Tsipras once the three soldiers that fled to Greece after the coup are extradited. We will love him even at the expense of missing a golden opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem!