Sacrificing Cyprus for Erdogan?

29 September 2016
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Despite the efforts of the international community to convey a message of optimism over the prospect of a Cyprus peace deal, the past few days have seen increasing concern among Greek Cypriot officials, as well as in talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said that notwithstanding some significant steps in reunification talks, a number of issues have seen hardly any progress. The Greek-Cypriot leader said that unless the remaining differences are resolved in a fair and balanced manner, Nicosia will not accept any form of settlement. His own personal stance, Anastasiades added, is evidence that he possesses the necessary courage and determination to take difficult decisions.

It is not some rhetorical overstatement. The international community is aware of that. Back in 2004, Anastasiades came out in support of the Annan plan against the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots, who voted it down in a referendum.

During a conversation with Ahmet Davutoglu in the spring of 2013, shortly after Anastasiades was elected president, the then Turkish foreign minister acknowledged the Greek-Cypriot leader’s bold stance. In light of this, Davutoglu expressed hope that a settlement could this time be reached.

So Anastasiades, the man who backed the Annan plan, is now urging the international community – especially the key mediator, Washington – not to use the Cyprus issue to serve their broader interests. Recent days at the UN witnessed expressions of concern that US foreign policy was becoming hostage to the Gullen case on the one hand and its Syria policy on the other.

The idea is that the Americans might be willing to sacrifice Cyprus in order to avoid a clash with Recep Tayyip Erdogan on yet another issue. In other words, the US may be willing to offer Erdogan a solution that would spare him from any concessions on Cyprus that would make him a target of the Kemalists and nationalists.

However, should the US turn its whole approach on its head? Although the Turkish president has opened so many fronts (with Washington because of Gulen and US support for Kurdish rebels and with the Europeans because of the refugee crisis and visa liberalization) he is still allowed to insist on a dysfunctional and less-than-European model on Cyprus.

Without meaning to underestimate the part of Turkey, Washington cannot possibly fail to see that the small island that is Cyprus has – in working together with Greece, Israel and Egypt – the potential to become a significant ally in the eastern Mediterranean region.

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