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Turkey’s withdrawal from Cyprus will lead to EU membership

Rami Rayess

Published: Updated:

A two-state solution in Cyprus is unviable, in the same way it isn’t feasible for Palestine, but for different political and historical reasons.

Ankara will never fully attain European or international recognition after its invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Today it occupies the northern part of the island, proclaiming it an independent republic.

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The international community has never recognized Northern Cyprus as a state, instead acknowledging Turkey as an occupying force. This view has never changed.

To alter course and come into the international fold properly, Turkey needs to review completely its expansionist strategies.
If it is to accomplish its long awaited aspiration to join the European Union, then withdrawing from Cyprus is its only option.

Geopolitically Turkey hasn’t played the game of making friends and influencing people particularly well. It harks back to the Ottoman Empire, but without realizing it doesn’t have a fraction of the power it had in bygone days.

It’s clear that Turkey wants to be a regional powerhouse in the Mediterranean and parts of North Africa, but often its haphazard foreign policies makes it difficult to determine endgames for its various pursuits. Does anyone fully understand how their positioning in Libya will play out?

When looking at Turkey it’s easy to see its relationship building as a paradox. It’s a NATO member, but its efforts to become part of the EU have been rejected.

It can be argued that the EU could employ several methods to push for change in Turkey in return for membership, but they are in fact limited. For example, Ankara can dismiss any EU assertions about human rights violations when bloc members from Eastern Europe have dubious records themselves.

Simply put, Europe does not want Turkey to join regardless of the pretexts Ankara puts forward about the injustice of it all.

A Turkish army's Eurocopter AS532 Cougar helicopter takes part in a military rescue mission exercise in the northern part of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, on June 11, 2019. (File photo: AFP)
A Turkish army's Eurocopter AS532 Cougar helicopter takes part in a military rescue mission exercise in the northern part of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, on June 11, 2019. (File photo: AFP)

If the Turkish pull out of Cyprus it brings a higher level of security to this part of the Med. Run solely from Nicosia, the island itself will see its GDP grow, with bumper tourism and real estate industries in the North the result.

The scenario will also bring Greece onside, and any policies it wants Athens to follow will become easier.

Turkey’s economy is stronger than many other countries in the region, and former Soviet Republics the EU is keen to have as members. Given this, the cost of bringing on board Ankara will not incur the same financial costs of other candidates.

Such a step remains unimaginable for Erdogan who has been working diligently to extend his country’s influence abroad rather than shrink it. He has done all he can to rebuild his image as a “Sultan” and reinvent the Ottoman supremacy.

At the end of the day, Turkey will not withdraw from Cyprus without earning a political prize in return. It has established a new political, economic, social and demographic position in the country, and its immediate geographic surroundings. This needs to be accounted for by the EU in any future negotiations.

For the Turkish leadership, the continued refusal by the Europeans has turned into an issue of national pride. Erdogan has not hesitated to unleash his contempt for this by threatening to open its borders to allow the flow of refugees into European territories.

With imperial aspirations on the one hand, and EU membership refusal on the other, Turkey is cementing ties with Russia.
The two countries share common goals. Both have regional and international aspirations, and pursue strategies that serve their own interests regardless of how the international community views them. They each also want to diversify their economies.

Turkey is the NATO member with closest ties with Russia. This is such a contradictory policy: join an international organization originally established to confront Moscow, while simultaneously become its best friend. Political juggling is one of Erdogan’s best games, but this cannot last.

The EU has Turkey over a barrel. With few friends, and its pariah status from its occupation of Cyprus, Turkey can either bow to demands from the bloc for membership, and withdraw from the island or develop stronger ties with Russia, resulting in the prospect of never becoming a member of the bloc and its eventual expulsion from NATO.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.