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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Barking up the wrong trees

(Cyprus Weekly) - It’s all well and good for President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to plant olive trees in a symbolic, albeit tacky, ceremony at the UN headquarters yesterday.

The picture of the two leaders - and that of the UN envoy watering the two saplings to demonstrate that the world body wants to help the peace process along - will doubtless strike a chord as the international community looks for closure of the long-running dispute in Cyprus.

But no amount of tree planting will bring results on the ground. And it will take more than goodwill and cordial ties between the leaders of the two communities to reach a settlement that will be lasting, if it is both just and viable.

The Greek Cypriot side and this newspaper may sound like a stuck record. But, in the final analysis, it is Ankara that holds the key to peace. And it is Ankara that must be made to understand that it does not befit a country seeking a place in the European Union to occupy another country, a member of the very club it wants to join.

And this is where the European Commission has let us down. This is the body that proclaims its role to be the interests of the EU as a whole rather than the interests of individual member states.

Yet, when it came to assessing Turkey’s accession progress it opted to placate, rather than to tell an aspiring EU member that the least it could do is comply with what has been asked of it – such as recognising the Republic of Cyprus and opening its ports and airports to Cyprus traffic.

If the EU can look the other way when a country so blatantly ignores its rules, then why does it make such a big deal of its accession criteria?

No-one is naive enough to expect an all-out attack against Turkey. Many would argue that this would only be counter-productive, serving to alienate a country the EU and the US firmly believe best suits their interests to be inside the bloc, rather than harbouring grievances outside it.

But this policy will collapse unless Turkey is made to understand that it must earn its place in the EU. And this means adopting its principles – even to a country its does not recognise.

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