Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 2002 / 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | NICOSIA, Cyprus The key to America's impending war against Iraq might lie in Cyprus. Washington expects support from Turkey, but the outgoing government of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit lacks authority and upcoming elections threaten to strengthen the Islamist and nationalist parties. At the same time, Turkey's relations with the West are likely to degenerate if the European Union admits the Republic of Cyprus without resolving the island's division.
Turkish and Greek Cypriots are currently engaged in yet another desultory round of negotiations. Many American and European policymakers desperately hope that everything will work out, an unlikely event in the view of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash -- president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.
For Denktash, the present cannot be understood without confronting past abuses against the Turkish minority. While Greek Cypriots talk about returning refugees to their homes, Turkish Cypriots demand guarantees against future dangers. This fear fuels Denktash's desire for separate Turkish Cypriot sovereignty. He argues that the goal of Greek Cypriots ever since the 1960 creation of the Republic of Cyprus has been enosis, or union with Greece.
Archbishop and President Makarios destroyed the original republic three years later by kicking out the Turkish representatives. Complains Denktash: "The partnership republic was broken into two." The question then was whether Turkish Cypriots, because of international recognition "of the Greek Cypriot wing of the island," were bound to accept that regime "as the legitimate government of Cyprus, while innocent Turkish Cypriots were being killed and kidnapped, villages were being ransacked and burned, and all human rights of Turkish Cypriots were being denied."
He answers: "We say no." So he advocates a separate Turkish Cypriot state. But why is sovereignty required for security, I ask? The latest Greek Cypriot "offer to us that we shall have effective participation in the central government is a repeat performance of the 1960 set-up," which "was not sufficient to protect us."
Nor is it sufficient for the future.
"To take on as partner the same party whose vision and position have not changed -- and we have several statements to prove this -- we have to be more careful."
Denktash's view of the south seems hard to square with what one sees in the Republic of Cyprus, a thriving democracy with incomes quadruple those in the north, and increasingly integrated with Europe. Shoppers, not killers, seem to fill the streets. Given how the world has changed, how can he justify such fears?
"When in 1955, 1958, bloodshed occurred, (and people fought over) enosis-partition, and we came to the point of compromising on the basis of a partnership republic, this is what we were told: Now it is over, they have forgotten it, don't worry."
Yet more violence occurred. And, today, he argues, Greek Cypriot "culture has not changed." But a recurrence of violence?
"Why should I gamble that this time they have really changed," asked Denktash?
Which accounts for his pessimism about the talks: "We are stuck on the question of the identity and status of the Turkish Cypriot people."
With the EU set to take in a divided island at the end of the year, Turkey is prepared to respond adversely: "I'm sure that Turkey will not yield on this issue," he avers. And Turkish officials have spoken to me of possible annexation and even military action.
The only hope Denktash sees is pressure from the United States and Europe, "governments which really have some weight over Cyprus." In fact, neither the United States nor the EU, even if the latter was willing to disrupt the multi-nation accession process by delaying Cyprus' entry, likely could force the Republic of Cyprus to sacrifice its basic goal of one government with sovereignty over the entire island.
Some observers speak of shifting the deadline for a settlement. Alas, my conversation with Rauf Denktash suggests that what is needed is not more time, more creative constitutional arrangements or more derogations to EU standards regarding personal mobility and property ownership, but more trust.
Explains Denktash: We want "to seek a reunification on the basis of the realities which have created today's separation."
For him, those realities reflect 40 years of conflict. He says simply: "We are not obliged to reunite with a partner which has done all these things to us."
The Republic of Cyprus has enormous advantages: international recognition, juridical acceptance, economic vitality and impending EU accession. But unless it can dispel the belief among leading Turkish Cypriots that it aims for Greek domination and even enosis through political manipulation and even violence, there will be no agreement to reunite the island.
With the ROC's impending admission to the EU, relations among Europe, Turkey and America then could deteriorate sharply, just as cooperation becomes imperative over Iraq.
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