- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Frustrated and bitter, Greek Cypriots saw the outcome of last week’s European Union summit as a blow to their aspirations and a major boost to the European ambitions of their archenemy Turkey.

Some politicians described the situation as a “complete catastrophe,” and editorials predicted other setbacks for the Greek-Cypriot majority of this divided Mediterranean island.

The EU summit approved the start in October of membership negotiations with Turkey, a process that will require at least 10 years and involve numerous hurdles. As a new EU member, Cyprus could have vetoed the decision, but did not, despite the urging of some 60 percent of Greek Cypriots.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hailed on his return home from Brussels as “the conqueror of the EU” and “the new star of the EU,” commented the Cyprus Mail. But the Greek-Cypriot delegation returned to Nicosia “glum-faced and mumbling words of unconvincing satisfaction.”

“For weeks, the president’s lieutenants waxed lyrical about our power of veto,” the newspaper wrote, referring to Greek-Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. “We could still have vetoed, but we didn’t, proving that while we have the right of veto, to exercise it is not as easy in the face of the full force of power politics.”

“The summit has starkly exposed the realities of our position,” the newspaper concluded.

According to some diplomats, the summit’s decision implied growing international sympathy for Turkey and a lack of interest in Greek Cypriots’ long-standing demand that the island be reunited on their terms.

The Cyprus issue — and Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Greek-Cypriot administration on the island — had threatened to capsize the summit. Under a carefully crafted compromise formula, Turkey agreed to sign a customs union protocol with the 10 recently admitted EU members, including Cyprus.

But Mr. Erdogan said bluntly that such a gesture did not imply recognition.

Cyprus was forced to accept the uncomfortable formula.

Turkey, which has some 35,000 troops on the island, is the only backer of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which governs 37 percent of the territory.

According to Greek-Cypriot parliament member Marios Matsakis, the EU decision means that there will be “no recognition, no withdrawal of Turkish troops, no recognition of the Armenian genocide.”

Turkey successfully opposed the inclusion in the summit agenda of the Cyprus problem or of the World War I massacres of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, which some countries wanted to use to prevent Turkey from being admitted to the EU accession process.

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