Turks prefer a solution for the decades-long problem that would be provided by full EU membership.
By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 25/07/14
Holding the white and red Turkish-Cypriot flag, people attend an army parade marking the 40th anniversary of the Turkish military invasion of Cyprus, on July 20th in Nicosia in the northern Turkish-controlled area of the of the east Mediterranean island. [AFP]
A recent nationwide public opinion survey by the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) showed that a plurality of Turks favour a solution to Cyprus problem that will require EU membership.
The Istanbul-based think-tank conducted the study in May and June.
"Thirty-six percent of Turkish voters showed support for an EU-linked solution. This result should therefore give some encouragement to the parties that are currently engaged in UN-sponsored negotiations to elaborate a solution to the Cyprus problem," EDAM noted in a statement.
The survey also revealed that 25 percent of voters think the issue has lasted too long and a solution must be reached no matter what the conditions are. Another 25 percent argued that there is no need to insist for a solution and a two-state solution with the international recognition of the Turkish side is necessary.
According to the survey results, political party affiliations play a role in the differences of opinion regarding the Cyprus issue -- 31 percent of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters and 25 percent of Justice and Development Party (AKP) voters prefer a two-state solution while 43 percent of Republican People's Party (CHP) voters favour an EU-linked single-state solution.
Professor Ahmet Sozen, the chairman of Department of Political Science and International Relations at Eastern Mediterranean University, said the crux of the Cyprus issue is "power-sharing in a common federal state."
But the prolonged stalemate has created a sense of comfort that neither side wants to risk for an uncertain future of power-sharing, added Sozen.
"Hence, both sides prefer to stick to their guns and put maximalist positions on the negotiation table, which are too apart to be bridged easily. Therefore the negotiations drag on," Sozen told SES Türkiye.
Given the slow pace of negotiations that were launched with a short statement in February 2014, Sozen said he is not optimistic for the near future.
"However, given the new developments such as Ukraine crisis and the West's effort to decrease Europe's dependency on Russian gas, the external dynamics are very enthusiastic and heavily involved in the negotiations and they are the ones who are keeping the negotiations alive today," Sozen said.
Last month Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and President of Greek Cypriots Nicos Anastasiadis met in the UN-controlled buffer zone as part of the negotiation process to reach a comprehensive resolution.
In a statement, UN Special Representative for Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim said "the leaders have agreed to submit and to continue submitting proposal on all core issues and conclude this phase as soon as possible."
The leaders also agreed to refresh technical committees and develop possible confidence-building measures while agreeing to meet twice a month, according to the statement.
The parties are currently discussing new border gates to facilitate border crossings as a confidence-building measure.
According to Doruk Ergun, a researcher from EDAM, the benefits of Ankara's decades-long Cyprus policy appear more ambiguous to the Turkish public with each passing year.
"Over the years Ankara has failed to garner any international support for its Cyprus policy and has had to bear considerable economic and diplomatic costs associated with it. So when asked about Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the first issue that comes to mind is the economic costs, " Ergun told SES Türkiye.
"Between 2000 and 2012, Turkey's annual aid to TRNC increased from 142 million TL to 804 million TL. Turkey's Cyprus policy has also been one of the major complicating factors of its relations with the European Union. Turkish citizens still know that its support for TRNC is often presented as one of the reasons that its accession negotiations with the EU are not progressing," Ergun added.
"The best way to ensure that this does not happen is either the continuation of the status quo, which has been the choice of more than a quarter of the participants to EDAM's survey. The other alternative is through Turkey becoming a full-member of the European Union so that it can have a say in Cyprus' policies and leverage EU's policy regarding the island," he added.
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