As the sun sets inexorably in the west to close the year, we might just pause to reflect on the past twelve months not only in respect of our personal lives, but also relative to where we live and the wider world in general. The writer’s ongoing de-facto ‘internal exile’ that he serves out in Northern Worcestershire continues to frustrate as factors beyond his control are at play. This may well change in a positive sense early in 2014. Far more importantly in the wider world, untold carnage and cruelty raged across Syria whilst natural tragedies such as unfolded in the Philippines also took a heavy toll. On a cautiously optimistic note, rapprochement with Iran has taken faltering steps forward despite furious attempts to trip these up, by way of efforts of Israel and their powerful supporters in Washington. Fortune favours the brave and many have criticised Barack Obama for his stance towards Iran, yet as this column has suggested for a long time now, a rehabilitated and fully trading Iran could influence a more stable Middle East. Much depends upon the not entirely benign activities of Moscow in this respect, however.
Moving into 2014, the Cyprus Question remains resolutely unanswered although there is increasing pressure from external sources for the key parties to agree to an answer that is being scribed onto prompt cards in the hope that the key players agree to a script. To extend the theatrical metaphor, as with any Greek play, more goes on behind the curtain than is ever played out to the gathered audience. Greek Cypriot leader Anastadious is being shown prompt cards from those he relies upon to maintain his power base in the south Nicosia Assembly, whilst Turkey appears to be very anxious that their Turkish Cypriot siblings agree to dance to Ankara’s tune given the latter’s recently revitalised EU accession bid.
Turkey and Greece appear to have turned over a new leaf in their relations after the meeting of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in early March. Announcing its foreign policy priorities in late July, Greece placed the Cyprus issue and its relations with Turkey at the top of its diplomatic agenda, in their view a visual portrayal of the countries' developing relations. Whilst they have both been experiencing a thriving relationship recently in the fields of mutual economic trade and tourism, which had not been the case for a long time, Greece's EU chairmanship in the first half of 2014 has aroused Turkey's interest.
Turkey recently has been congratulating itself on its newly signed agreements with the EU on visa liberalization and readmission. Viewed as an important step for Turkey on the way to the EU, the visa exemption and readmission deals brought fresh air to Turkey's EU candidacy and fuelled Turkish citizens' interest, which had been in decline in previous years.
However, Turkey must unravel the Cyprus issue, which has been in deadlock for a long time, to progress in its EU candidacy. The EU process has been a difficult road for Turkey, as eight chapters have been blocked since 2006, including those on financial services, transport policy, customs union and external relations. Cyprus has continued to be an item of discussion and one of the major obstacles for Turkey's advance towards EU membership. Turkey's latest initiative proposes single representation in international platforms but joint sovereignty on the island, which would protect the rights of both Turks and Greeks. If this formula is accepted by the Greeks, both sides will have equal rights and neither side will dominate the other. Needless to say, this proposal has not been readily accepted by the Greek Cypriots who want a ‘single sovereignty’ on the island of Cyprus, whilst their church – ever directing the Greek players – sees Turkish Cypriots as ‘that awful minority’.
There is pressure upon the playwrights and the actors to put on their final performance by the spring of 2014 but it may well be a great deal longer than that before the final credits roll on this 50 year Cypriot Tragedy.
Chris Green for Turkey Star