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Conflict without settlement or collective amnesia 18 septembre 2006

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Turkish Daily News, September 17, 2006 Sunday

Sylvia Tiryaki *

Nowadays, which country do people have in their minds when they hear words conflict, eastern Mediterranean and U.N. Security Council resolutions? The answer is most likely Lebanon.

And what do our minds reflect in correlation with words Cyprus and problem? Here, the counter is almost certainly Turkey and its obligations to open the ports and the airports to the Greek Cypriot carriers.

Our minds are not in the wrong. They are only doing their jobs, depicting key words served up by media in order to simplify the picture and assist our memories.

The words Cyprus and conflict can currently be found together very rarely; at best in the news about the Greek Cypriot government extending a humanitarian support to the Lebanon.

This even further diverts our attention from the fact that it is Cyprus, a member of the EU lying that lies on Lebanon’s border, which is has been an unresolved conflict on the Security Council’s agenda since 1964.

The word entirely missing in this picture is the settlement.

However, the EU not always has been focused only on the tessarae of the mosaic. The great shift in the EU’s rhetoric towards Turkey vis-a-vis Cyprus happened after the famous referenda on April 24, 2004 when the Greek Cypriot side refused a settlement which was judged as fair and balanced by literarily all relevant international organizations and interested countries, including the EU and the two main Greek Cypriot governmental parties. Despite the fact that the Turkish Cypriots agreed to the settlement, the sole representatives of Cyprus in the EU remain the Greek Cypriots.

Perhaps the Council Presidency’s conclusions from 1999 played a great role in the Greek Cypriots’ lack of interest in the proposed settlement. Had it not promised the Greek Cypriots exclusive representation of Cyprus in Brussels — with or without a settlement the Cyprus conflict might have been solved by now

Be that as it may, after the EU dropped the first Copenhagen criterion, political stability, in the Cyprus accession, the word settlement disappeared from the European vocabulary. Before this crucial decision Turkey was asked only to help to facilitate a settlement, but since 1 May 2004 normalization of the relations with the Republic of Cyprus became a key mantra.

It is of course true that Turkey has to normalize relations with the EU member states. However, the membership of Cyprus is — according to Protocol No 10 to the Treaty of Accession — a conditional one, being fully implemented only after the comprehensive settlement. Thus as any normalization is a sine qua non of the accession, comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus conflict is a sine qua non of any normalization. Otherwise all paradigms and realities of the Cyprus case since it gained its independence in 1960 should be denied.

In line with an odd logic of justifying past wrongdoings by adopting new rules and definitions, Turkey is being blamed for the intransigence in not complying with the legal requirements of the ratification of the customs union protocol. The promise of the EU encompassed in the regulation on direct trade, given to the Turkish Cypriots as an award for showing willing to compromise, is at the same time revealed as nothing more than a political pledge baring no legal responsibility for fulfillment.

Whether the obligation is political or legal, how can we dare to stay stuck in such rhetoric while talking about a conflict that is pending on the U.N. Security Council agenda?

One should be more cautious when accepting a paradigm that legal means more than political in the conflicts. The Greek Cypriots, while obsessively blocking the lift of the international isolation imposed on the Turkish Cypriots, may find themselves in the direct breach of Article 3 of their own Protocol No 10 to the Treaty of Accession, which proscribes hindering of the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots.

And violation of the primary law looks seriously legal enough.

* Dr. Sylvia Tiryaki is the Cyprus project coordinator at the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) and a faculty member of Istanbul’s Kultur University. She can be contacted at s.tiryaki@iku.edu.tr

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