Turkey's Cyprus Problem

By Andrew Jacovides

To the Editor:
Hugh Pope ("Pax Ottomana?" November/December 2010) observes that Turkey succeeded in being elected to a rotating seat of the UN Security Council for 2009-10. It might then be assumed that Turkey's policies have been guided by the principles of the UN Charter. But Turkey continues its 40,000-strong troop occupation of a large part of the Republic of Cyprus -- an EU and UN member state -- despite numerous Security Council resolutions since its initial 1974 invasion calling for its immediate withdrawal. Turkey does not comply with its legal obligations to Cyprus or to the EU and forcibly interferes with Cyprus' rights in its exclusive economic zone of maritime jurisdiction.

Pope writes that "in 2003, the [ruling party in Turkey] reversed traditional Turkish policy by agreeing to endorse a UN plan to reunify" Cyprus. What he does not say, however, is that the latest version of the plan wholly incorporated Ankara's demands. In addition, Pope makes an unfounded assertion in stating that "since joining the EU in 2004, Cyprus has pulled all available levers to block Turkey's own accession to the union." If this were the case, Turkey would not have been endorsed as a candidate for EU membership in 2005, since such a decision requires unanimity, and so Cyprus could have exercised its veto.

Like Pope, many welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's declared goal of the "settlement of disputes" that "directly or indirectly concern Turkey" and Turkey's "zero problem" policy toward its neighbors. Other than paying lip service to supporting the UN-sponsored intercommunal talks on Cyprus, however, Turkey has not conceded an inch toward achieving a solution within the agreed framework.

If the Cyprus problem were solved through a viable compromise settlement with Turkey's help, Turkey will have removed a major obstacle to its EU accession. Moreover, a reunited and peaceful Cyprus, free of foreign troops, would be transformed into a bridge of peace from a bone of contention and would cooperate with Turkey and Greece on an array of issues. This outcome can be achieved through good neighborly relations on the basis of the principles of the UN Charter, not through occupation, domination, and a Pax Ottomana.

ANDREW JACOVIDES 
Former Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States