Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Greece moves to save face in crisis with Turkish Cyprus

The Turkish-Cypriot declaration of independence has presented Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou with his first real international crisis since taking office more than two years ago.

With the Greek economy in bad shape, Mr. Papandreou depends a great deal on his image as a strong and decisive international leader to maintain his popularity. A failure now could considerably weaken his government.

About these ads

Since the Turkish Cypriots declared independence Tuesday, Greece has launched a diplomatic offensive to secure international condemnation of the action and a retreat by the Turkish Cypriots from their declaration.

It has declared that ''in this moment Greece will count its real friends and allies.'' It also has warned that it will break off diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes the new Turkish-Cypriot state.

Athens has requested that Britain - one of the guarantors of Cypriot independence - consult with Athens and Ankara. Athens has asserted that it could not possibly sit at the negotiating table with Turkey under present circumstances. (Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash proposed Thursday immediate negotiations with Greek Cypriots on establishing an interim government on Cyprus , Reuters reported.)

Government ministers have been dispatched to Britain, France, West Germany, and Saudi Arabia for consultations. Foreign Minister Ioannis Charalambopoulos has gone to New York to take part in the UN Security Council debate on the crisis and will reportedly meet there with United States Secretary of State George Shultz. Greek Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Yiam Yiannis Kapsis summoned the ambassadors of the Warsaw Pact countries to protest their lack of reaction to the move and to demand that they clarify their positions.

The Soviet news agency Tass published a statement Wednesday condemning the action. But Greek government spokesman Dimitrios Maroudas rejected it, saying his government required a statement from the Soviet government, not from a news agency.

After meeting Thursday in Athens, Cypriot President Spiros Kyprianou and Mr. Papandreou expressed their determination not to back down. Mr. Kapsis announced that he would chair an extraordinary meeting of the European Community Political Cooperation Council in Brussels today to discuss the crisis.

Whatever the long-term effect of these activities, they have helped reassure the Greek public that the government is taking strong steps to deal with the crisis. Greece's efforts have also helped create an international atmosphere that seems largely favorable to the Greek position.

About these ads

According to diplomatic sources in Athens, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was prompted to take his action by two considerations. Greek Cypriots have long insisted that a solution to the island's division was only possible within the framework of a new federal system between the Turkish and Greek zones , with a single government and open human and economic relations.

The Turkish Cypriots worry that such an arrangement would not ensure their security. They have insisted that the new Cyprus must be a confederation, with two autonomous governments, a weak central authority, and strict controls on human and economic relations. The Greeks reject this position, saying that such an arrangement would only confirm Cyprus's partition. Many observers here believe Denktash's action was aimed at bolstering his position at the negotiating table.

According to a Turkish-Cypriot statement, ''The declaration of independence will not prevent, but on the contrary will facilitate, the establishment of a true confederation.''

Some say the declaration was a maneuver to enhance Denktash's position with Turkey. The positions of the Turkish-Cypriot leader have often differed from those of Ankara in recent months. According to sources close to the intercommunal negotiations, Denktash feared that Turkey might try to negotiate a solution to the Cyprus problem directly, ignoring his wishes and without consultation. By presenting Ankara with a fait accompli Denktash has, according to this argument, eliminated this possibility.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.