Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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February 27, 2003

Iraq Conflict Distorts Settlement of Cyprus Problem

Analysis. US negotiations with Turkey to ensure Turkish support for the anticipated US-led attack on Iraq have had a significant impact on the settlement of the Cyprus dispute which had been at its closest to a solution since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. US sources confirmed that the US had offered to support expanded Turkish claims in the negotiations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot entity which occupies the northern 37 percent of the island.

Significantly, the US “accommodations” of Turkey in the negotiations, even apart from the est. $15-billion in aid and loan guarantees for the Turkish economy, have fed the growing pan-Turkist attitudes which are taking root in the Turkish General Staff and even within the Turkish Islamist political sector now dominating the Government. Pan-Turkism — the belief in the revival of the ancient Turkish empire and Caliphate — was specifically rejected by Kemal Mustafa Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey, who urged his countrymen to look Westward toward Europe, and to reject any attempts to revive what he described as the fruitless past of pan-Turkism.

The Turkish Armed Forces, with the General Staff at the top, have been the historic guardians of Atatürkism, and Atatürk’s picture continues to dominate most Turkish official offices. Today, however, few Turkish officials actually heed Atatürk’s words. As a result of the revival of Turkish expansionism, possibly delaying and certainly distorting the Cyprus settlement, Turkey’s fate within the European Union (EU) has been severely thrown into question. It is now quite conceivable that the post-Iraq situation will see Turkey more distanced than ever from the EU, and more dependent on the US for political and economic support.

The question, then, would be whether the Cyprus issue can be resolved satisfactorily before Turkey formally begins to acknowledge its separate path from the EU, assuming the implicit Turkish-EU rift cannot be overcome.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on February 26, 2003, continued to apply pressure on Greek and Turkish Cypriots to meet a deadline of February 28, 2003, for a deal to reunify the island, warning there was no time left for any significant delay. However, it now seems clear that, even apart from the Turkish situation, more time is required to get agreement on a deal stemming from the UN proposals.

Secretary-General Annan said after a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. “There is a window of opportunity, but that window is not going to remain open forever.” Mr Annan told both sides he did not want the deadline for agreeing to the reunification deal to be extended longer than a few days. However, it seemed unlikely that a deal could be struck before mid- to late-March 2003, at best. But with the changes in the regional situation, caused by the Iraq conflict, the nominal Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktas, has basically attempted to take the negotiation process back to the beginning. The Denktas position, which was rejected by the new (November 2002) Turkish AKP Government after years of unqualified support from the outgoing Government of Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit (particularly since he returned to power in 1998), may regain some momentum with the Turkish General Staff pan-Turkists, particularly now that the US has once again come to the aid of the Turkish political and economic position, negating the influence of the EU and UN.

The United Nations sought agreement to tje UN reunification blueprint by February 28, 2003, so that a united Cyprus would be able to sign the adhesion treaty to the European Union on April 16, 2003. According to the United Nations’ original plan, both sides would have to approve a deal in referendums held at the end of March 2003. This now seems optimistic. Secretary-General Annan said he would submit to Greek-Cypriot President-elect Tassos Papadopoulos, whom he met on February 25, 2003, a document which included last-ditch modifications to the UN plan. It is the plan’s second revision since it was submitted in November 2002.

Recep Tayip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey’s governing AKP, on February 25, 2003, gave his support to the changes, which he said had eased the task of finding a deal that was acceptable to both sides, noting: “The latest plan ... appears to remove concerns expressed by the parties during negotiations.” Mr Erdogan, who held talks on Cyprus in Ankara with Secretary-General Annan on February 24, 2003, said, however, that he had not seen all the changes to the plan.

Britain had also offered on February 24, 2003, to give up nearly half of its sovereign military base areas in the southern ethnic Greek-controlled part of its former colony in a bid to facilitate a deal.

Rauf Denktas’ comment, however, was: “They are offering cake to the Greek Cypriots and peanuts to us.”