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Harvard Research Fellow: Cyprus, Armenia “Insignificant Speed Bumps” to Turkey’s EU Bid
December 20, 2010—No. 08 (202) 785-8430


Executive Director’s Note: The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.

The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

Harvard Research Fellow: Cyprus, Armenia “Insignificant Speed Bumps” to Turkey’s EU Bid

The Russia-Eurasia Student Club at the Nitze School of Advanced International Area Studies hosted an event November 4, 2010, titled, “Between East and West: The Historical Legacy of Turkey’s Foreign Policy toward Russia and the United States.” The speaker for the event was Joshua Walker, a research fellow at Harvard University and a German Marshall Fund fellow.

The majority of Walker’s remarks focused on the budding relationship between Russia and Turkey, which comes at the beginning of perhaps the roughest period for U.S.-Turkish relations. He provided an overview of Turkish domestic politics as well as foreign policy within the region, including the Middle East. He also turned his attention to examine the U.S-Turkish relationship.  Walker accused the U.S. of always siding with Israel over Turkey, and trying to force Turkey to choose between either East or West, although Turkey has demonstrated that it can bridge the divide and have prominent and productive relationships with both sides.

When asked about the role of Cyprus and Armenia in Turkish foreign policy and their collective effect on Turkey’s EU accession bid, he brushed both countries off as insignificant speed bumps that everyone is tired of addressing. Cyprus, he said, “should have never been admitted into the EU without a solution to the occupation issue.” Walker stated that currently Turkey is no longer the obstructionist on this matter. As for Armenia, he commented that the Protocols have no real effect on either country and only served to placate the Armenian Diaspora.

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Woodrow Wilson Center Forum Explores Approaches to Cyprus Solution

The Woodrow Wilson Center held a forum titled “Settling Cyprus: Time for a Creative Approach?” featuring Hugh Pope, Turkey/Cyprus project director, International Crisis Group, on November 8, 2010.

In his opening remarks, Pope gave an overview of the current situation on the island.  He focused on the good economic standard of living and claimed there is no sense of immediate threat. The presence of the Turkish occupation troops has been the major cause of insecurity and their presence has mainly been kept alive by the media. He claimed there are huge advantages to be gained with a settlement for both parts while at least 10% of growth will be added to the island’s GNP.

With regard to the Turkish Cypriots, Pope said that they live in insecurity, they feel isolated, vulnerable and are frightened of the results of any solution that would diminish their status and make them feel like returning to Greek-Cypriot rule (as the Greek-Cypriots are more economically prosperous.)

On the property issue, Pope said three-fourths of property is Greek Cypriot owned.  He suggested that Turkish Cypriots could develop a mechanism for the properties they have consolidated in the south in the form of a voucher that would be repayable after 20 years time. In this case, every time a Greek Cypriot property is settled in the north (that its value would triple throughout time) the Greek Cypriot would be reimbursed relative to the tax paid on the property ownership. Further, Pope asserted that Greek Cypriots have been stuck on their position which has led to no compensations; hence, he suggested they need to be more open toward accepting a constructive agreement on the matter.

Proceeding with his analysis, Pope commented on the role the leaders of the two respective communities have had in the process.  He primarily opined that former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was not profoundly interested in a solution, and yet, even now as the climate has ripened, the Greek Cypriots have been “hard to persuade.” President Christofias wants reunification, however in Pope’s opinion; President Christofias has established a low profile against the U.S. by being a “European communist leader suspicious of the U.S.”

Moreover, according to Pope, Turkey is no longer trusted in the EU and Cyprus is a main reason why Turkey has faced a blockade in its way forward.  It was held that although three-fourths of Turkey’s Foreign Direct Investment comes from the EU, and it remains closely embedded in the West, Turkey still seeks opportunities in the East as a regional leader. Pope stressed that Turkey needs to regain the trust of its partners by making steps in Cyprus and enforcing its legal obligations by opening its ports. There is need for a solution in Cyprus, and while he recognized that it will take a long time, Pope emphasized that Turkey needs to push for amendments on the Ankara Protocol in an effort to find more ways to engage the Cypriots.

Commenting on the current state of affairs, Pope believes both sides seem to have lost the energy of “sealing the deal.” In his words there is “no demonstrable interest in going further.”

Q&A: Turkish Troop Numbers “Exaggerated”

During the Q&A session there was fruitful discussion on Pope’s observations and analysis. In a question regarding timeline for a solution, the speaker responded that there should be no artificial deadlines and the solution has to be adaptable as the reality in Cyprus constantly changes, making specific reference to the population dynamics in the north of Cyprus.  Further, according to Pope, the Greek Cypriots should be more decisive as to the type of solution they wish as they appeared to have shifted several times in the past.  On a question regarding Famagusta, Pope replied that it is early in the process to be talking about interim matters and the city should be returned to its owners without making any further comments.  Pope stood in support of the Annan Plan and argued that had the Annan Plan been in place “we would not be facing this issue.”  He also reiterated that Cyprus accession into the EU without a solution was a decision “bound to create the problems we are facing right now.” Pope claimed there is a need for a “constructive crisis” to bring the issue of solution forward as there is little demonstrable interest from either side to move further in the solution process. Lastly, on a question posed by AHI regarding the presence of the occupation troops and the extent to which they are perceived as an impediment to the process, Pope replied that often the numbers are exaggerated.  He believes Cypriots still have trouble trusting Turkey, which, even though it attempts to build a more credible face, is unlikely to follow a tactic of “good faith” by removing the troops. Concluding, Pope restated that had the Annan Plan been in effect the troops would have been removed as part of its provisions.

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Future of U.S.-Turkey Relationship Examined

The Center for American Progress hosted a policy forum titled, “The Future of the U.S.-Turkey Relationship,” featuring Steven A. Cook, Hassib H. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Soner Çağaptay, director, Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Michael Werz, senior fellow, Center for American Progress.  It was held November 10, 2010.

The forum examined the future U.S.- Turkey relationship in terms of Turkey’s current political and economic situation and influence in the region.  All three speakers seemed to agree that Turkey is regarded as a pivotal player by other neighboring and regional Arab countries due to its close bond to the European Union.  If Turkey was not a potential future member of the EU, then it would not receive as much attention by other countries in its region.

According to two of the panelists, the Turkey-U.S. relationship is healthy and the U.S. regards Turkey as its strategic partner in the region.  The relationship will remain strong as long as Turkey and the U.S. are moving in the same direction, they added.  However, one of the panelists cited the fact that Turkey does not regard Iran as a dangerous rising power as the U.S. does and that this could possibly mean that Turkey is taking a different direction than the one desired by the U.S.

The panel did not mention Turkey’s accession in the European Union in regard to Cyprus or Greece.  In fact the only time Cyprus was recalled was during the Q&A session when a journalist referred to Cyprus as the “pothole” of Turkey’s accession to the EU.  Çağaptay responded by siting Cyprus as an excuse by the larger EU member states, namely France and Germany, instead of a “pothole” for Turkey.  He reinforced his response by declaring that Cyprus alone is not the problem.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Discusses Policy Based on “Neo-Ottomanism”

The Brookings Institution hosted a policy forum featuring Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu titled, “Perspectives on Turkish Foreign Policy: An Address by H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu.” It was held November 29, 2010.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu based Turkey’s foreign policy on “Neo-Ottomanism” implying a revitalization of the Ottoman Empire.  He explained that the current restoration of the Turkish society, foreign policy, and politics are based on three fundamental segments of Turkish history: 19th Century Ottoman Society, the establishment of the Turkish Republic and the “security oriented democratization” in Turkey (transformation of economics and politics).

The foreign minister emphasized that a lack of economic restoration would impede the political restoration of which Turkey is currently subjected.  He upheld that Turkish restoration is vital in the region as it will provide peace and stability to the region.  Thus, he suggested that Turkey has “zero problems with its neighbors.”  To illustrate his point, Foreign Minister Davutoglu cited the increase in commercial relations with its neighbors.  He stated that during the history of the “Turkey-Greece” relationship the two countries have signed only 35 agreements while on May 1, 2010 they signed 23 agreements all in one day.

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Turkish Think-tank Sponsors Comprehensive Conference on Turkey

SETA DC, a Turkish think tank, held an all day conference, “Insight Turkey,” on December 3, 2010. Speakers on three panels included members of various universities, think tanks and a member of the Turkish Government.

The first panel, entitled “Turkish Politics: Quo Vadis” addressed several domestic issues. One of the issues was the changes Turkey needs to make to their constitution and which nations they are using as a model. The second issue was the new relationship between the military and the government in Turkey, which is transitioning from a military “hands-on” relationship to a backseat role. Other issues brought up in this panel were secularism and head scarves, and containment of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party).

The second panel, “Turkey’s New Regional Activism,” addressed Turkey’s evolving role in the region. The speakers expressed that Turkey is not only interested in Middle Eastern issues, but issues in the Balkans, Europe and Asia as well. Turkey is attempting to expand cultural trade and products to Greece and Europe in hopes of transferring good trade relations into good political relations. One panelist elaborated on the Turkish-EU relationship, commenting that there is no hidden Turkish agenda and that their interest is an honest interest in the welfare of the Balkan region. Other nations discussed were Iran and Russia.

The last panel was dedicated to Turkish-U.S. relations. Panelists discussed the military and strategic relationship between the two nations and how the cooperation has been vital to efforts in the Middle East as well as the hopes of expanding trade between Turkey and the U.S. The last panelist, however, cautioned that a combative attitude on the part of the U.S. could be detrimental to further developing what he sees as a promising partnership.

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