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How will the talks be affected by Turkish Cypriot elections

WITH TURKISH Cypriots being asked to choose between a re-unifier and a separatist, the outcome of the ‘presidential’ election this April will give a stark indication of whether the north retains the desire for reunification last expressed in 2004, or whether they now believe it is time to give up.

While neither the dovish Mehmet Ali Talat nor veteran nationalist Dervish Eroglu have officially declared their intentions to fight for the leadership, and thereby the role of chief negotiator for the Turkish Cypriot community at UN-sponsored reunification talks, officials close to both politicians told the Sunday Mail yesterday the two would “certainly” be in the running for an election that will mark either a more serious continuation of negotiations or their sudden death.

“In 2004, the [Turkish Cypriot] people had hope and a vision of a solution. They came out onto the streets and into the squares to demand that solution. But nothing came of it,” a high-ranking official from Eroglu’s National Unity Party (UBP) told the Mail yesterday.

“So now there is disenchantment and the only alternative for Turkish Cypriots is to embrace the TRNC,” the official, who chose to remain nameless, said, adding that while the current status quo might not be perfect, it was “much better than nothing, and much better than what [President Demetris] Christofias is offering”.

While one can argue that Turkish Cypriot disenchantment is understandable, it is hard to see how such an approach will win favour with either the Greek Cypriot leadership or with those in Brussels.

It might not even go down very well in the Turkish capital where these days one hears more about the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policy of “zero conflict” with its neighbours than of “the national cause”.

No one inside or outside the UBP is claiming that Eroglu has won Ankara’s support for the upcoming election.

“Turkey will not show a preference, or even an inference of a preference,” the UBP official insisted yesterday. “It never has, and it never will, intervene in Turkish Cypriot politics.”

While agreeing that Ankara would never come out in public support for one or other of the leaders, a source close to Talat did however highlight that the current Turkish Cypriot leader’s approach to negotiations ran “parallel” to Ankara’s position on Cyprus, and even went as far as saying Turkey “does not want to lose Talat”.

But does that mean Ankara might seek to block Eroglu’s ‘presidential’ aspirations in the north? The answer is probably not, because while it would rather see Talat continue talking to Christofias, being seen to meddle directly in the internal politics would draw greater criticism from the international community than an Eroglu victory. And besides, such an outcome could even work out well for Ankara, for it could then say it was the Turkish Cypriots, and not Ankara, who now blocked concessions put forward by Turkey.

That said, Eroglu and his party insist negotiations will continue, even if the opinion polls that put him ahead in the race turn out to be true.

“He [Eroglu] will not leave the table,” the UBP official insisted yesterday and added: “If Christofias changes his mind and offers something the Turkish Cypriots can accept, they will change their minds again”.

In other words, Eroglu does not plan to call an end to negotiations if he wins. Rather, he will simply ask for more.


by Cyprus Mail



How will the talks be affected by Turkish Cypriot elections  

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