Monday, 5 March 2012
Does Turkey really want to annex northern Cyprus?
It’s a strange statement to make, which shows that Turkey is rather confused regarding its Cyprus policy or is, at least, having problems articulating it.
For a start, Turkey already annexed northern Cyprus in 1974. Everyone knows that Turkey runs the show in the occupied areas, with its 40,000 troops and 200,000 settlers and that the political regime it has established there, the so- called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, is entirely subordinate to it. Indeed, when the Turkish Cypriots took up arms in the 1950s for ‘partition or death’, this partition of Cyprus wasn’t meant to end with an independent Turkish Cypriot state, but with the annexation of the spoils to Turkey. Pan-Turanism is what motivated men like Rauf Denktash, not petty notions of community rights or autonomy for Turkish Cypriots.
So, of course, what Bagis meant when he said Turkey was considering annexing northern Cyprus was that it was considering a formal annexation; of announcing to the international community that which already exists on the ground, that northern Cyprus would be Turkey’s 82nd province.
However, this article (in Greek) in yesterday’s Phileleftheros suggested that annexation won’t be done through a grand declaration of a fait accompli, but would amount to further steps aimed at integrating occupied Cyprus into Turkey. According to Phileleftheros, this would involve promoting Turkish settlers to key political positions in the pseudo-state and encouraging Turkish businessmen to make massive investments in northern Cyprus, particularly in infrastructural projects.
The Phileleftheros scenario makes more sense because it’s difficult to see what Turkey would gain by formally annexing occupied Cyprus. As we’ve already noted, since Turkey’s invasion in 1974, annexation has already taken place, and there is no reason to suppose that formalising this would attract any more legitimacy than the declaration of an independent Turkish Cypriot state did in 1983.
Moreover, for Turkey to announce a formal takeover of northern Cyprus would be to admit that it was limiting its ambitions on the island. This is because Turkey’s aim in Cyprus is not to control half of the island, but to control all of it. And Turkey knows that the only way it can achieve this is by depriving the Greeks on the island of political power – by dismantling the Republic of Cyprus and replacing it with an emasculated United Federal Republic of Cyprus, in which the Turks are independent in the north – independent in this context means entirely dependent on Turkey – and partners in the south.
Thus, if Turkey were to formally annex northern Cyprus, this wouldn’t resolve Turkey’s central problem, which is the existence of the Republic of Cyprus, able, as it is, to block Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, sign hydrocarbon agreements with Israel, project the influence of countries like Greece and Russia, and generally obstruct Turkey’s aim of dominating the Eastern Mediterranean. For Turkey to overcome these obstacles, it needs to suffocate or eliminate any significant Greek state entity on Cyprus, and for this it needs the Turkish minority on the island to be involved in the administration of the entire island, to be given the rights and powers envisaged for it in the Annan Plan.