Election displays Turkish Cypriot frustration with EU

The victory by the National Unity Party, or UBP, lead by former Prime Minister Dervis Eroğlu, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRNC, clearly does not bode well for the settlement talks under way between Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias.

The problem is not that Eroğlu is objecting to a federal solution under one flag, and a single citizenship for the island.

His preference is for a loose confederation that basically amounts to independence for northern Cyprus. But he knows this is a formula that will not be accepted by the by the Greek side or the international community.

Eroğlu is therefore of the "no settlement in Cyprus is a settlement in itself" school of thought. Namely the one that says that the current situation is a settlement in itself that has to simply be made "de jure."

As we said, the problem is not that Eroğlu is of this mind. He was, at any rate, put in line by Ankara almost immediately after his electoral victory, which incidentally is a first for the TRNC bringing, as it did, a party to power on its own. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent him a harsh message Tuesday, telling him "not to be a spoiler" as far as the Cyprus talks are concerned.

President Abdullah Gül, for his part, in a separate statement, said that Ankara stands firmly behind President Mehmet Ali Talat, the Cyprus negotiator, thus also signaling to Eroğlu not to be obstructive. Eroğlu’s remarks after these statement, on the other hand, indicate that he got the message.

As matters stand, he has no other choice since the TRNC is dependent on finances from Turkey, over which the government has a say. It is clear therefore that Mr. Eroğlu is not going to be a "spoiler," regardless of what lies in his heart of hearts, given the fact that he has to work with Erdoğan and his government.

The bad news in all this, therefore, is not Eroğlu but the fact that Turkish Cypriots have thronged to his nationalist party that supports the loose confederation and the more organic ties with Turkey argument for northern Cyprus.

A main reason for this turnabout, which was unexpected given that the majority of Turkish Cypriots had supported the federated solution envisaged by the Annan Plan Ğ which was eventually scuttled by the Greek side Ğ is of course the sense of deep disappointment in and frustration with Europe.

After having said a resounding "yes" to the Annan Plan, which was supported by the EU as well, they ended up being the side that was punished, while the Greek Cypriots were rewarded with EU membership Ğ which also gave them a veto against Turkey Ğ even if they said a resounding "no" to the plan.

It is very unlikely, therefore, that Turkish Cypriots will have much confidence in the EU under these circumstances, given that their political and economic isolation has continued even if they did the right thing vis a vis the Annan Plan.

This should be bad news for Europe and Washington, signaling as it does that they have to come up with significant "carrots" to convince the Turkish Cypriots, and any stick they imagine they have against the TRNC is illusory.

What makes the sentiment of the average Turkish Cypriot even more important is that whatever settlement Talat and Christofias come up with, this will have to be submitted to a referendum. Having been taken for a ride once with the referendum for the Annan Plan, no one can tell how they will vote when that day comes.

There is obviously a message in all this for Europe, the U.S. as well as all other parties concerned with a settlement in Cyprus. Whether anyone is prepared to take note of this message is another question. But what is certain is that Turkish Cypriots are not taking anything for granted anymore.
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