Originally published in the Greek weekly newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 585, p. 50 on July 1, 2017
A new round of negotiations was launched in the middle of the week to resolve the Cyprus crisis. However, the leaks behind the closed doors confirm that there is no progress in the negotiations and that the existing differences between the Cypriot representatives and their supporters – the Greek and Turkish governments – remain the same. The Greek side has confirmed that security issues and Turkish troops are still non-negotiable for the Turks. On the other hand, the Turkish side confirms that Turkey will not withdraw its troops from the island of Cyprus before reaching a definitive solution that will guarantee the rights and security of Turkish Cypriot citizens.
Nonetheless, the difference in this negotiating round of talks is the general atmosphere experienced by both the Greek and the Turkish government with internal crises and international conflicts. The conflict within the Greek government, especially between the Greek defense minister and his party, as well as his international supporters and Greek Prime Minister Tsipras, his party and his own international supporters, has begun to be publicized. A Western source assured me that Russia, which has increased its influence on Greek politics, has begun to influence the decisions of some ministers within the Greek government over the side of the government that is close to the European Union and the US. This conflict is a reflection of the poor general atmosphere between Russia and the West in the recent period with the extension of western sanctions against Russia, and Greece has become the field of this conflict. Although many observers may argue that the origin of the dispute is internal, this is just a superficial reading of the political landscape.
The Turkish administration is entering a new round of international conflicts because of the support of the state of Qatar, the activation of a military base on its territory and the transfer of Turkish troops and heavy military equipment. The move was seen by the alliance against Qatar – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – as a provocative step on behalf of Turkey, and this is paving the way for decoupling relations between these countries with it and the abolition of economic and defense agreements for the tired Turkish economy. On the other hand, the Turkish government is monitoring the increase of the influence of Kurdish militias in northern Syria with suspicion and concern. The information on the entry of Turkish troops into the Syrian north, in the area of ”Euphrates Shield”, is estimated at about 1,000 soldiers in preparation for a new military action, this time not against ISIS, but against Kurdish militias . This may increase the tension between the Turkish government and the US government that supports them.
In the midst of these conflicts faced by the administrations of the two countries, the Cyprus issue will remain unresolved in the immediate future as it forms part of a more general framework of unresolved issues between the two countries, including Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Greece and Euro-Turkish disputes in relation to the agreement on the flow of immigrants and the lifting of the entry visa for Turkish citizens in the countries of the European Union. These issues were discussed during the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim to Athens on the 19th of last month in an effort to ease the tension between Greece and Turkey, but the solution is still in the hands of the EU countries and the US that do not look willing to contribute in ending the differences between the two countries.