November 10, 2010 6:00 AM
By Andrew Duff in Financial Times


James Blitz ('UN talks are 'last chance for solution' on Cyprus', 8 November) describes very well the mind-boggling intractability of the Cyprus talks. But the consequences of yet another failure to reach a comprehensive settlement on a bizonal, bicommunal federal constitution are much worse and more far-reaching than he suggests. The rest of Europe, indeed, is being held to ransom by the tragic conjunction of Greek prejudice and Turkish pride.

If an agreement on Cyprus is not reached, Turkey's bid to join the European Union, which is already stalled, will fail once and for all. Those who oppose Turkey's membership of the EU know very well how to play the Cyprus card. In the absence of a settlement of the Cyprus issue there can never be the necessary majorities either in the European Council or the European Parliament to continue the accession process. A European Union which has proven itself to be an untrustworthy negotiating partner and which cannot enlarge to Turkey will wane in global influence, especially in Moscow and Washington and throughout the Islamic world.

Turkish efforts to find a serious role in the emerging security and defence strategy of post-Cold War Europe will be stymied. The efforts of the EU and NATO to work closer together will be wholly frustrated. Even Turkish participation in the European Defence Agency will be blocked by the Republic of Cyprus and its fellow-travellers.

Turkey will not be given the breakthrough on visas to European countries that it so badly needs, and direct trade and travel between Turks and Greek Cypriots will not happen. Turkish troops will have to remain in Northern Cyprus in large numbers, to the ultimate satisfaction of the arch-Kemalists in Turkey. Never to be a viable state, the TRNC will continue to be bank-rolled by the Turkish tax-payer to the tune of over € 1 billion a year.

That legion of Greek Cypriots who oppose a power-sharing deal with their Turkish fellow islanders including turbulent priests and toxic media will have their day. But the Republic of Cyprus will remain a benighted state living in perpetual fear of Turkey and with all the moral authority of a blackmailer. The restitution of Greek Cypriot property in the North will not happen.

There is now one hope only for the rescue of the talks. Recep Tayip Erdogan could prove himself a big statesman by overcoming his own fierce resentment at the rejection of the ill-fated Annan Plan in 2004. The Turkish prime minister has the power and self-confidence to force a deal on Cyprus and all attendant issues if he wishes to do so. As things stand Turkey's leadership claims that EU membership remains its top priority. If so, there is only one way to prove it. Mr Erdogan should call the bluff of the Greek Cypriots.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Duff MEP