Originally published in Huffington Post Greece on July 12, 2017
Last week in Switzerland, the talks for resolution of the Cyprus issue ended without any results. As I had predicted in my previous article on July 1, 2017, these talks would not bring some positive development to the crisis, but reality turned out to be far worse. Western sources have assured me that the talks between the Greek and the Turkish side have resulted in verbal conflicts that have almost led to the use of force among the present. Thus, the deal returned to zero, worse than it was a month ago.
The Turkish side, while having agreed to withdraw 16,000 troops from the northern part of the island as the negotiations reached a solution, reversed and confirmed that the Turkish forces would not leave the island at any cost and that their presence there is a matter of national security for Turkey and Turkish Cypriot citizens. The tension has risen even further, as the Greek side has argued that a solution to the Cyprus crisis cannot be reached as long as the presence of Turkish troops on the island lasts and that Turkey should withdraw its troops before reaching a final solution that will put an end to the administrative division.
With this escalation of the Cyprus crisis, serious questions arise about the reasons for change of the atmosphere in the course of the negotiations. The same source confirmed to me that the Turkish side is using the crisis to gain more time. Also, that the incident of launching fire by the Greek Coast Guard on the Turkish cargo ship at the same time that the talks took place, despite the fact that the official reason was the refusal of the ship to be checked for drug trafficking information, was treated by Turkey as a threat from the Greek side and its international supporters who do not want to reach a solution on the Cyprus issue. This tension was an important reason for the failure of the talks.
It is clear that the international environment is still very complicated and not at all favorable to solving many international crises, among them the Cyprus problem. Turkey, which benefits from the differences between Russia and Europe, as well as between Russia and America, finds a way to avoid any possible solution to the Cyprus issue. Turkish journalists adjoining the Turkish government are pushing for a referendum in the northern part of the island to mount Turkish soil after the failure of the negotiations, arguing that Turkey will thus increase its participation in the exploitation of natural gas in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean, the northern part of Cyprus will contribute to tourist revenues and the Turkish administration led by Erdoğan and his party will appear as heroes restoring the glory of the Ottoman Empire through geographic expansion, also engaging the Turkish nationalist parties.
From a Greek source adjacent to the negotiators, it was leaked that there were meetings of senior European officials with Greeks before the start of the last round of talks on the Cyprus issue, where various options were discussed. The Europeans persuaded Greek officials that the international climate shows that a solution under the current Turkish administration is not feasible. They also underlined that the withdrawal of German forces from the base of Insirlik suggests that there will be escalation within Turkey. These are directly linked to the recent leaked information on the increase in support provided by Western countries, in addition to the US, to Kurdish militias in Syria, although they are directly linked to the PKK organization. It is therefore clear that these countries intend to use the Kurdish militias against the Turkish government. On the other hand, the situation within the Turkish military structure, following the recent failed coup, still does not inspire confidence in today’s Turkish administration. All this information was communicated to Greek officials to substantiate the rationale that it is not necessary for Greece to reach a solution of the Cyprus issue under the rule of Erdoğan for the time being. Let’s wait, things can change.
In the midst of all this tension and the growing number of external factors affecting the Cyprus problem, the scene will become more complicated between the troops of both sides on the island. The military conflict is closer to reality, though it is an option excluded by virtue of NATO membership. But things can change quickly and suddenly.