The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been to Southern Cyprus and has carried out a day of official meetings. Having met the Southern Cypriot leader Christophias, Merkel then said at the joint press conference “the Turkish side is not ready to settle”. One wishes she had not said that. If she had not, she would have supported the solution efforts on Cyprus.
That the Greek Cypriot leader Christophias should qualify the visit as “historical” when expressing the satisfaction he felt from Merkel’s visit and their meeting at the press conference is certainly not a simple choice of words. Truly it is an historical event that at a time in which the international community is beginning to pile pressure on Southern Cyprus for a solution and Christophias’ anti-solution attitude is running out of breathing space Merkel should travel to Southern Cyprus and say “the Turkish side is not ready to settle”! Dmitris Christophias, was right when he proudly said that “it was the first time a German Chancellor visited the island” and that relations between Germany and Southern Cyprus were “excellent”.
The reasons are easy to spot once one begins to look for answers to a few questions. Why did a German Chancellor not visit Cyprus before, for example at the time in which the UN Peace Plan was set to be voted for in referenda? Why did a German Chancellor not visit Cyprus to meet with the sides and to initiate a process of solution or compromise at a time in which negotiations in Cyprus have become deadlocked? Chancellor Merkel who has devoted her political career to making the European Union a global actor and to see Germany become a superpower should not turn over her Mediterranean policy to the caprices and political morality of Greek Cypriots. In the joint press statement Christophias talked about the téte-a-téte he had with Merkel and listed the issues taken up at the meeting as the Cyprus problem, Turkey’s EU process and bilateral ties between Germany and Southern Cyprus and the steps to be taken to strengthen them.
Christophias also said that Germany is one of Southern Cyprus’ closest friends in the fields of the economy and tourism and also that the two countries were in close cooperation in the framework of the EU, but obviously there is more to it than that. It was also Christophias who said that “Merkel shows a special interest in recent developments regarding the Cyprus problem”. If Chancellor Merkel can say “the Turkish side is not ready to settle” despite “showing a special interest in recent developments regarding the Cyprus problem”, then God help us all when it comes to issues in which she does not show a special interest! The picture is crystal clear: Cyprus’ turn at EU term presidency is approaching and the clock is ticking. It is obvious that Germany will use the regime in Southern Cyprus as a tool and will not get its hand dirty.
This is the meaning behind Merkel sitting at the side of Christophias as he says “For Turkey to become a member of the EU, it needs to honour its obligations to the EU and to Southern Cyprus”. Speaking at the joint press conference, Chancellor Merkel has said that Germany will make efforts towards finding a solution to the Cyprus problem and for the reunification of the island. Angela Merkel also reminded the audience that in the past Germany was also a divided country, with questionable relevance. In East and West Germany the people spoke the same language, had the same religion and national identity. Furthermore, one group of Germans did not try to massacre the other. One group had not driven the other away from their homes and land.
There were no ethnic cleansing campaigns. Did Merkel not know all this? Did no one tell her? Regarding a solution to the Cyprus problem, Merkel said that she saw the Greek Cypriot side and Christophias were making efforts in good will but that the Turkish side was not taking the positive steps necessary. Listening to Merkel, it is not at all difficult to guess what she may have told Christophias behind closed doors: She must have said “Hang in Dmitris. Just hang in there. Next year in January, Cyprus will become the EU term president. Until that time, stall everyone. Stall Derviş Eroğlu as well as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. You stall and we will support you. You prevent a solution and we will blame the Turks. Come next February you will get even with Turkey. Turkey’s EU journey will come to an end. We will act as though maintaining the balance at first. We will force the Turks to compromise at the last minute, as though doing them a favour.
Then we will criticise you so as to be believable.” In her assessments on the island, Merkel continuously underlined certain points. Chancellor Merkel argued that “the Turkish side is not flexible”. As justification, she said that the “Ankara Protocol has not been realised”. She also emphasised the “importance of Turkey opening its ports to Greek Cypriot shipping”. As though the Cyprus problem had begun with the Ankara Protocol... As though the solution to the Cyprus problem lay in Turkey allowing Greek Cypriot shipping access to its ports... If such is the case, does Merkel promise Turkey full membership once the Ankara Protocol is realised and the ports are opened? Indeed, if one is to talk of things left unrealised, what has become of the Annan Peace Plan which Northern Cyprus ratified with overwhelming majority and Southern Cyprus rejected with overwhelming majority? It seems that Merkel has found a way to appease the Greek Cypriots following Northern Cypriot Head of State Derviş Eroğlu’s visit to Berlin in October 2010 during which he met the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Berlin could have acted differently.
Surely it must be of some value to Germany to develop stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and to make it a focus of cooperation and solidarity in the region. Berlin ought to see that the global conjecture and the world states systematic may be able to overcome the bottleneck it is experiencing through new crises. As a result of new crises and transformations the coming decades may see the respective positions of Turkey and Germany altered and transformed at an extreme scale. If the relations between Turkey and the EU are to be subjected to the whims of a few Greek Cypriot politicians and if this is Berlin’s Cyprus, and therefore Eastern Mediterranean, policy, it means that there are very exciting years ahead of us, though they will be more problematic than Merkel imagines.
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