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FACTDROP: Pressure on Cyprus over EU’s Ankara invite to Syria meeting
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12/03/2011

Pressure on Cyprus over EU’s Ankara invite to Syria meeting


Πηγή: Cyprus Mail
By Stefanos Evripidou
Nov 3 2011

CYPRUS HAS backed down on opposing an invite to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss developments in Syria with EU foreign ministers in Brussels after coming under “tremendous pressure” from major EU powers.

According to yesterday’s Phileleftheros, Cyprus gave up its objections during Thursday’s EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting where EU ministers reportedly agreed to invite Davutoglu to Brussels to discuss the Syrian crisis in January, after failing to invite him to Thursday’s meet.

Davutoglu responded saying he would have to check his calendar before agreeing to attend a new meeting. He was quoted by Turkish daily Today’s Zaman criticising the EU for bowing to pressure from a small country.

“The EU bowed to the whim of a small country. I don’t know if I might be able to join if I am invited to a new meeting on Syria because I have a busy schedule,” Davutoglu told journalists accompanying him on a visit to Germany.

According to Zaman, Davutoglu also recounted that he had a phone conversation with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, who sounded “apologetic” over the diplomatic setback.

Cyprus had initially raised objections, along with Greece, when France proposed to invite Davutoglu to attend Thursday’s EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Syria. The foreign ministry argued that some Arab League members would not welcome Turkey being given a greater role in the region, since the League was making its own efforts to try to manage the unfolding crisis.

The League’s Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi was due to attend Thursday’s meeting and inviting Davutoglu too would have risked provoking a reaction from some Arab countries, a ministry source told the Cyprus Mail.

Another point raised concerned preserving the EU’s decision-making autonomy. Before al-Arabi was invited, the Council discussed why he was being invited and what issues they wished to discuss with him. No such discussion was had regarding Davutoglu. Inviting him into internal EU decision-making processes “through the back door” risked setting a precedent that Cyprus was not comfortable with.

Davutoglu was subsequently not invited, prompting the ire of the Turkish foreign minister who said Cyprus could raise obstacles but it could not veto Turkey’s historic role in the region.

Other EU member states appeared to agree. According to a foreign ministry source, Cyprus came under “tremendous pressure” on Thursday to withdraw its opposition to a Davutoglu invite, particularly from Germany and France.

The source said major EU powers were concerned about a possible meltdown in Syria and wanted to secure Turkey’s practical support in any possible action that might need to be taken should all out civil war break out in the country of 22.5 million.

They believe Turkey is capable of asserting or creating some sort of positive effect on the situation in Syria. Cyprus, on the other hand, does not believe Turkish intervention would have a stabilising effect which could prevent civil war and a domino effect of clashes across the Middle East.

It is keen, however on preventing a humanitarian disaster and an influx of refugees to the island, given its close proximity to the region. Cyprus will also be heading the EU Presidency in the second half of 2012, highlighting the potential for an exercise in crisis management.

According to one source, various ideas are being bandied about in the international community, including setting up a safety corridor, creating humanitarian enclaves, military and non-military intervention. This poses questions on what kind of foreign intervention there would be in the event of a crisis, performed by who (NATO or EU) and with who’s backing (Arab League and/or UN)?


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