In an article published in this paper at the weekend, Marios Eliades, former minister and a candidate in the last presidential elections, questioned the value of the pursuing a more active EU involvement in the Cyprus problem. President Nikos Christodoulides had made this his number one priority, promoting the idea on visits to Brussels and European capitals and calling for the appointment of an EU special envoy for the Cyprus problem.
As Eliades pointed out in his article, experience has shown that the appointment of an EU envoy – the first, Serge Abou, was appointed in 1994 – has very limited impact on peace efforts as the EU cannot exert the necessary pressure on the parties. It has not achieved the level of cohesion to speak with one voice on international problems, as member-states have their respective national interests to safeguard. Many of the powerful member states such as Germany, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands has big interests in Turkey; there is also Turkey’s role in hosting millions of prospective migrants.
We should be seeking the assistance of the US, argued Eliades and it is extremely difficult to disagree with him. The US has a very good track record in solving international disputes, which the EU does not. In Cyprus, US envoys such as the late Richard Holbrooke, Roger Weston and, to an extent, Victoria Nuland played a vital role in moving the peace effort forward. It was a shame that the Crans-Montana conference in 2017 took place during the Donald Trump presidency which had very little interest in affairs outside the US.
As the world superpower, the US has the power and influence to get Ankara on board and push things in the direction of a settlement which would also serve Washington’s broader plans for the Eastern Mediterranean that involves energy cooperation. Israel’s opening to Turkey on the energy issue is indicative of the broader American plans for the area as is the dialogue between Greece and Turkey, which kicked off with the meeting between their foreign ministers.
We suspect, however, that the US would like to see a real commitment to a settlement from President Christodoulides, even a request for help, before it becomes involved and turns its attention to Ankara. What Christodoulides should bear in mind is that there is a limited amount of time to seek US assistance. Next year is an election year, which will take up all the time of the Biden administration. If anything is to happen, it will have to be in the next couple of months.
Christodoulides will be in New York later this month for the UN General Assembly and for his meeting with the UN Secretary-General and it would be the perfect opportunity to seek Washington’s help on the Cyprus problem.