This article examines critically the developments pertaining to the Cyprus issue in 2009. Turkish authorities gave genuine support to the Cyprus negotiations and insisted that a solution should be concluded and voted on in referendums in 2009. They considered it vitally important that the Turkish Cypriot side should stay at the negotiating table and the Turkish side should not be held responsible for the ongoing stalemate. Promising steps were taken regarding confidence-building measures while some progress was achieved in major issues. However, no agreement came out on the election of Turkish representatives by their people; the issue of property remained a Gordian knot and the sides continued to have contrary views on the 1960 treaties and Turkey’s guarantee. The Turkish government did not open its harbors and airports to the Greek Cypriot administration in 2009 since the EU promise of removing the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots was not fulfilled. Turkish leaders announced that Turkey would choose Cyprus if it was forced to choose between the EU and Cyprus.
Turkey’s Cyprus policy, Cyprus negotiations, Turkey’s EU membership process.
In the recent history of the Cyprus question, the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktaş, respectively, met fifty- eight times by 2002 in order to try to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus question under the auspices of the United Nations, but they could not achieve any substantial progress. Feeling the need to intervene in the process, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan submitted his plan to the sides on 11 November 2002. While the Turkish side failed to give an official response to the plan because of Denktaş’s health problems and the government change in Ankara, the Greek Cypriots stated that they saw the plan as a basis for discussion, but they could not accept it as it was. Some changes were made in the plan and it was resubmitted to the sides, but it could not be signed at the EU Copenhagen Summit on December 12 in spite of intensive pressures from representatives of the US, the UN and the EU. Denktaş and Clerides met eight times after the Copenhagen Summit, but technical committees could not be established and activated immediately as it was planned, so that the negotiations could not be elevated to the expected intensity because of the propaganda activities conducted by the Greek Cypriot side for the presidential elections on 16 February 2003. The negotiations process reached a further impasse when Tasos Papadopoulos, who criticized the Annan Plan harshly and accused Clerides of being too soft, won the elections. Kofi Annan came to Cyprus on February 26 revised version of his plan to the two sides and invited them to The Hague to receive their official responses. Annan also wanted the sides to promise to take the plan to the people in a referendum even if they did not reach an agreement on it. No agreement came out of the intensive negotiations between Annan, Denktaş and Papadopoulos on March 10 and the Greek Cypriot administration signed the accession treaty with the EU in a ceremony at Athens on 16 April 2003.
The Turkish government tried to revive the process at the beginning of 2004 so as not to be isolated totally in the international arena and to ease its EU membership process. Taking courage from the Turkish initiative, UN Secretary-General Annan had talks with the leaders of the Cypriot communities, Denktaş and Papadopoulos, in New York in February and submitted to them a two-page text to be responded to with just a ‘no’ or ‘yes’ answer. According to the text, if the two leaders could not reach an agreement before 22 March, Greece and Turkey would be invited to the process. If an agreement was not still possible after 29 March, referendums would be arranged for the last version of the Annan plan by both sides of Cyprus before 1 May. The two sides accepted the text and thus they consented to holding referendums even if an agreement was not reached.
According to the plan, the number of Turkish and Greek soldiers on the island would be reduced to 6000 in 2011, to 3000 in 2018, and ultimately Turkey and Greece would keep 650 and 950 soldiers, respectively, on the island. The Turkish Cypriot territory would be reduced from 36% of the island to 29%. Güzelyurt and its surrounding area would be left to the Greek Cypriot administration and Karpaz would stay in the hands of the Turkish Cypriots. The number of Greek Cypriots who would return to their homes in the north would not exceed 18% of the Turkish population for the next 19 years. When Turkey became an EU member or after 19 years had passed, all limitations would be removed. The Greek Cypriots having homes in the Karpaz region would return to their homes without any restrictions. The lands which would be left to the Greek Cypriots would be transferred to them in six phases over forty-two months. The restrictions regarding the Greek Cypriot purchase of property from the Turkish founder state would be removed when the per capita income of the Turkish Cypriots reached 85% of Greek Cypriots’ per capita income or at the end of 15 years. The election of senators would be made according to ethnic origin rather than citizenship in order to not harm the balance in the Senate, which was designed to be formed by 24 Turkish Cypriots and 24 Greek Cypriots. However, in the Council of the Presidency, citizenship not ethnic origin would be used as the criteria. The federal government would consist of 3 Turkish Cypriots and 3 Greek Cypriots; there would be 4 Greek Cypriot MPs and 2 Turkish Cypriot MPs in the European Parliament and, in the first period, presidency and vice presidency would alternate between the sides every ten months in the Council of the Presidency, which would be formed by 6 Greek Cypriots and 3 Turkish Cypriots. In the following period, the presidency would be undertaken by the Greek Cypriots for 40 months and then by the Turkish Cypriots for 20 months. Decisions of the Council of Presidency would have to be approved by at least one Turkish Cypriot member and the sides would not be able to dominate each other. The 45,000 Turks who came to Cyprus after 1974 would continue to stay on the island and the rate of Turks who could immigrate to Cyprus would not exceed 5% of the population on the Turkish Cypriot side. In the referendums held in April 2004, the plan was ratified in the north at a rate of 65% whereas the Greek Cypriots rejected it at a rate of 70%.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendums, the EU issued a declaration stating that the EU Council was determined to support the economic development of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which demonstrated its willingness to join the EU. The declaration advised the release of a financial aid package of 259 million dollars appropriated for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the EU Commission was urged to start the necessary work to develop comprehensive economic projects for Turkish Cypriots. In the EU Summit of December 2004, Turkey was given a date for the start of accession negotiations, but it was also reminded that it had to extend its customs union with the EU to the Greek Cypriot administration and withdraw its soldiers from Cyprus.
In line with its policy of solving problems with the neighbors and creating a security belt around Turkey, the AKP government of Turkey has been insisting since 2004 on finding a solution to the Cyprus problem and, therefore, it has faced fierce accusations at home that it has undermined Turkey’s vital interests in Cyprus. In 2009, AKP leaders who are rightist- conservatives gave strong support to the actions, attitudes and views of the leftist statesmen of the TRNC on the Cyprus question. Therefore, in this article, the concept of ‘Turkish side’ is used in a way to include both Turkey and the TRNC. Evaluations and analyses in the article are related mostly to the events of 2009. In this article, developments related to the Cyprus talks of 2009 are discussed with a special emphasis on Turkey’s stance on Cyprus and Turkey’s Cyprus policies are analyzed in connection with the EU’s role and attitude in the Cyprus issue.