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BARÇIN YİNANÇ >Ankara mulls to put an end to Cyprus talks

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While the Greek Cypriot administration started to discuss the next moves after the collapse of the peace talks to unite the divided island, the Turkish government is also in a similar exercise.

The Foreign Ministry’s tendency appears to put an end to the Cyprus talks once and for all. The final decision will be taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, if Erdoğan was to decide to totally end talks to find a permanent solution, the process to make it endorsed by Turkish Cyprus could prove problematic. While the Turkish Cypriot government of Prime Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün would have no problem in endorsing such a course of action, it would be difficult to convince Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı.

The collapse of the talks in Crans-Montana under the auspices of the United Nations marked the end of a process seen as the most promising in generations to end the decades-old problem. The election of Nikos Anastasiades as president of Greek Cyprus had raised hopes for a solution as he was in favor of the Annan plan during the 2004 referendum. Despite the recent recovery, the condition of the Greek economy hit by the crisis was believed to offer another incentive for Greek Cypriots to be more willing for a compromised solution. Yet in the eyes of Ankara, even the most pro-solution leader has fallen short of delivering a deal based on compromise. That could be one of the reasons why Ankara tends to end the talks forever. After all, even if the most “pro-solution” leaders cannot deliver peace who else can.

On the other hand, the Turkish Foreign Ministry does not appear to be concerned about the possible repercussions of ending the peace process forever, called by the Turkish side as a “peaceful divorce.” In fact, this is the best time for ending an exercise that takes the sides nowhere, according to an official. With so many troublesome issues on the global and regional players’ plate, the assumption is probably that such a radical move by Ankara might not prompt a strong reaction.

Those who think like that in the ministry might have a case since Turkey’s image abroad is so badly tarnished that not much could make it worse.

“What have we got to lose,” seems to be the dominant feeling in the ministry.

Declaring that the Turkish side would no longer turn back to the negotiation table might come as bad news to the EU department at the ministry, but they might have a hard time convincing others since accession talks are nearly de facto frozen. The possibility of a reaction from the EU to officially end membership talks might not stop Erdoğan from making such a decision, since he just recently said ending the accession process won’t harm Turkey. On the contrary, he recently told the BBC that it will be “comforting” if the EU rejects Turkey as a member. Could he take a decision on Cyprus to precisely trigger such a reaction from the EU?

With so many problems on his plate, Erdoğan might show the tendency to wait for a while. For the conspiracy theorists, this might be interpreted as a strategy to keep a potential crisis in the closet to take it out when the need for it appears. There are many pundits who believe Erdoğan might need a foreign crisis in order to boost his popularity ahead of the 2019 presidential elections.

The domestic political situation in Turkish Cyprus might also play a factor in Erdoğan’s decision. Özgürgün who is also the head of the National Unity Party has been a skeptical of the talks and won’t have a problem seeing the efforts for a solution end forever. However Akıncı, who is from a different party, has built his career on a solution. It would be very difficult to convince him. And in fact, when Turkish officials tried to sound out the idea with him, Akıncı was not enthusiastic at all.

At any rate, the course of action taken by the Turkish side might take shape in a few days as July 20, the anniversary of Turkey’s intervention in the island, approaches.

July/18/2017

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