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FACTDROP: Annexing Cyprus


Annexing Cyprus

Πηγή: Sundays Zaman
March 11 2012

The fever of Turkish nationalism can be measured by looking at the position taken towards the Cyprus question. Since the 1950s the Cyprus issue has been used to spread and radicalize Turkish nationalism.

I have recently observed that, after a long break starting in the early 2000s, the nationalist fever fueled by the Cyprus question has been on the rise. And the Turkish government, prepared to confront the EU in July 2012, does not mind fanning nationalism over Turkey's “national cause”: Cyprus. The Greek Cyprus' upcoming presidency of the European Council may provide the Turkish government, if it so desires, with a perfect excuse to break with the EU and withdraw its support for a negotiated solution on the island.

Last week Turkish European Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış listed “annexing northern Cyprus to Turkey” among the options Turkey has concerning the future of the island. Claiming later that he was misunderstood, the minister underlined that Turkey's policy remains unchanged: “Our sole objective is for a solution to be reached on the island, acceptable to both Cypriot sides.” He proceeded by saying, “But if no settlement emerges, all options are on the table.”

The problem lies in the meaning of “all options.” In his previous interview, given to a newspaper, Minister Bağış named the “options on the table” as follows: reunification agreed upon by the two communities in the island; if this fails, a two-state solution; or the annexation of Turkish Cyprus to Turkey.

Never, as far as I remember, has a minister of any Turkish government stated that “annexing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [KKTC]” is a policy option that is on the table. This was uttered by a number of ultranationalist politicians and opinion leaders, but not by a member of the government or a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As has been declared numerous times, Turkey prefers and works for a negotiated settlement in the island. It has also been hinted several times that if negotiations do not progress well, Turkey will not wait forever but will consider pressing for the recognition of the KKTC. But an outright annexation has never been the policy of any Turkish government, nor of the AK Party government.

How then can we explain the minister's statement? Is it a new government policy or a slip of the tongue?

Since the government has remained silent and the minister did not denounce the option, we may assume that annexation is a policy option seriously being considered in Ankara.

But this contradicts Turkey's declared reason for the 1974 intervention on the island. Furthermore, all the defenses of this intervention that followed are de-legitimized by such a policy.

Beyond this, such a policy does a great injustice to the KKTC. Turkey officially recognizes the KKTC as a sovereign state. How can a state recognizing another as sovereign and independent talk of annexing it?

This talk is dangerous and self-defeating for Turkish diplomacy. The talk of annexing may only be an acknowledgment that Turkey keeps the KKTC under its occupation. Is this the case? If the Turkish government says yes, then its minister can talk of annexing it without consulting its government or people.

I suspect it was a movie that was watched by over 4 million people in Turkey these past few weeks, and probably the minister himself -- “Fetih 1453” (The Conquest 1453), that is to blame for this talk of “annexing Cyprus”! If Constantinople, why not Cyprus?

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