Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and top diplomats will hold a lengthy brainstorming session to discuss steps toward a speedy settlement in Cyprus, a move likely to mark Ankara's return to Cyprus diplomacy with renewed energy after a long period of leaving the decades-old problem on the back burner.Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias have been holding talks on reuniting the island since September 2008, but there has been little progress so far in resolving the main issues of dispute between the two sides. Experts warn that this could be the last chance in years to reunite the island given the upcoming elections in Turkish Cyprus for a new president and a shrinking public willingness for reunification on the island, particularly among Turkish Cypriots, who voted for a UN plan to reunite Cyprus in 2004. The pro-reunification Talat has said in the past he would not run for a second term if he does not see real prospects for a settlement. He is most likely to be replaced by a conservative, pro-independence leader if there is no real chance of a settlement on the island in the foreseeable future.
Foreign Ministry diplomats, gathering at a meeting chaired by Davutoğlu, will “discuss the current situation regarding the ongoing talks for a comprehensive settlement and steps to conclusively speed up the process so as to ensure a solution will be reached in the coming months,” a statement from the ministry released late on Wednesday said.The statement underlined that a timely settlement in Cyprus was essential for peace and stability in the Mediterranean region. It said Turkey was giving its “full support for the comprehensive settlement negotiations and the constructive stance of the Turkish Cypriot side.”
The continued division of Cyprus both complicates Turkey's bid to join the European Union and creates tensions between Turkey and the Greek Cypriot administration, as well as its traditional ally Greece, with Turkey disputing territorial claims made by Greece and the Greek Cypriots in the Mediterranean. In an annual progress report on Turkey's membership efforts, the EU Commission refrained from imposing a deadline on Turkey to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU member Greek Cyprus, but some EU countries, already opposed to Turkish membership, are willing to kill Turkey's membership hopes over the issue. In 2006, the EU suspended accession negotiations on eight of the 35 chapters due to Turkey's refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic.
Despite the risks, however, Ankara has paid little attention to the Cyprus problem so far, insisting that it has done what it should by supporting the reunification talks, both now and back in 2004, and saying that it is now up to the EU to unblock the stalemate by allowing -- as it promised in 2004 -- direct trade with the economically isolated Turkish Cypriots. Disappointed by the Greek Cypriot rejection of the Annan plan in 2004, which paved the way for the accession of the Greek Cypriots as the sole representative of the island into the EU, and the EU failure to keep its promises to the Turkish Cypriots to help end their isolation since then, Ankara has focused most of its energy first on a series of internal crises and then relations with its Middle Eastern and Caucasian neighbors as well as with the United States.