Turkish Cypriots must make a choice…
Not only Turkey, Cyprus or Greece, but the entire world has also been trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual and communal health issues have dominated everything. Economies of most countries have taken a deep dive, crippling the capabilities of all countries in their fight against the pandemic where all are facing a serious and existential threat.
On the other side, tensions are building in the eastern Mediterranean. Some say the threat of war flaring up between Greece and Turkey is resonating with the 1996 Kardak (Imia) crisis. The Cyprus problem has become a nuance in view of the complex and far more dangerous eastern Mediterranean problem, which no longer is just an issue of how to share the hydrocarbon riches, but more so has become a matter of sovereignty poisoning the entire web of relations between Greece, Turkey and even France.
While there is no harm in daydreaming about a settlement on Cyprus after the Oct. 11-18 presidential elections, it has become all the more clear that without a resolution of the Western Thrace, Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean issues in a wholesome approach, there cannot be a viable and lasting deal on Cyprus. Probably, all these issues should be tackled altogether in a comprehensive conference of all the parties involved.
If the incumbent Mustafa Akıncı thinks that if he is reelected at the presidential vote in Northern Cyprus, there will be a non-official or official five-party conference that might convene in the failed Crans Montana style shortly is nothing more than a dream.
Like the federation option, the Crans Montana-type negotiations are dead and buried. Since the collapse of the Crans Montana exercise in July 2017 nothing has remained the same. First of all, the eastern Mediterranean issue has gone far beyond the Cyprus issue and turned into a Turkey-Greece problem with France, Egypt, Israel, United States as well as Russia as side players. Not only Turkey repeatedly has offered its readiness for a diplomatic way out (like the current exercise at the NATO headquarters) but also at the same time, Turkey has made it clear that for the defense of its inalienable rights if need be, it is ready to engage even in war.
The determination of Ankara for the defense of its continental shelf and exclusive eco-nomic zone rights in the eastern Mediterranean is absolutely made clear to everyone. The Greek effort – together with an alliance of convenience with Egypt, Israel, and Greek Cyprus – to turn Turkey a landlocked country, a country confined to a narrow strip along its Mediterranean coastline, cannot be allowed by any Turkish government. A small is-land of less than eight square kilometers and just 1.8 kilometers from the Turkish soil cannot be used as a shield to keep Turkey away from the Mediterranean.
While France, with a greedy approach, has been trying to pour salt on the existing Turkish-Greek problems, on the other hand, German diplomacy, being aware of the consequences of French efforts, has been working for a way out from the impasse without losing Turkey.
Greece and Greek Cypriots have been purchasing or hiring weapons systems, military vessels and fighter jets from France, offering Paris sea, land and airbase facilities on Cyprus and at the same time have been engaging in a war of words with Ankara.
Will the EU impose new sanctions on Turkey? If it does, will such sanctions, provocative actions by the United States – the creation of a training facility in Cyprus contrary to the 1960 system – or some offensive statements from Israel or Egypt deter Turkey and force it to give up its inalienable rights in the eastern Mediterranean?
Only days are left before the Turkish Cypriot presidential vote. Even this week, all polls show that as high as almost 40 percent of the people are undecided who might make up their choice at the last moment or boycott the elections altogether. Turkish Cypriots should think well before deciding who to vote. Who will be in their best interest? Some-one on a course of clash with Ankara almost on all issues but at the end of the day walk in the footsteps of Turkey, or someone working in harmony with Turkey and achieves a far better defense for the rights of Turkish Cypriots while securing far more easily the much needed economic assistance from Turkey?
If reason prevails, the answer is clear, but as a Turkish Cypriot myself, I must admit that for both Turks and Greeks of Cyprus, most of the time, the reason is on holiday off the island.