The recent commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus is a dark reminder that a solution is long overdue. Greek and Cypriot government officials, as well as organisations around the world, called for an end to the Turkish occupation and the reunification of the island.
Looking past sentiments, a realistic observer can see the clear benefits of a solution for the countries involved, the region and beyond. In that context an obvious question arises: Does Erdoğan want a solution?
And does he realise that, if it comes, it will be a catalyst as it will bring Greece and Turkey closer and create a huge political window of opportunity that will allow for meaningful, results-oriented bilateral talks and negotiations, and a potential recourse to the International Court of Justice?
Most importantly for Turkey, a solution to the Cyprus issue will go a long way toward facilitating Ankara’s goal of playing an important role in the region. If it plays by the rules and acts according to internationally accepted norms, it will be able to fully participate in regional schemes with huge benefits to itself, instead of being on the receiving end of criticism.
Turkey is an important country. Greece sincerely envisages a mutually beneficial relationship where the two act as good neighbours and close allies in NATO.
But does Erdoğan want the same, including being a reliable member of the Euro-Atlantic setup, with the benefits as well as obligations that entails?
When Erdoğan first came to power he created a sense of hope on many fronts, domestic and foreign. On the issue of Cyprus, instead of [former Turkish Prime Minister Bülent] Ecevit’s cold claim that the Cyprus issue had been solved in 1974, he offered a different approach and vision. He accepted the obvious fact that there was a problem which had to be solved.
Two decades later, there is still no solution. But one should be pursued – one that is fair and workable. The modalities will be up to the communities. How close their institutional ties will be is for them to decide.
But first, the Turkish president – maybe next year, if he is re-elected – has to return to his past realisation that a solution in Cyprus will benefit his country. If he does, many things will improve for Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)