Cablegate: Turkey Reacts to the Elections in Northern Cyprus

Published: Fri 19 Dec 2003 08:43 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 007767
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2013
(U) Classified by DCM Robert Deutsch, E.O. 12958, reasons 1.5
(b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary: Close results in northern Cyprus' December
14 elections have unleashed a wave of speculation about their
meaning and possible coalitions on both sides in Turkey's
Cyprus debate. However, amid the media hype there is a clear
sense that all eyes are now on Ankara. Ankara's EU diplomats
are still digesting the results and have no post-election
action plan to engage the Turks. MFA officials expressed to
visiting UK officials hope for a broad-based coalition
government with which the GOT could negotiate without
worrying about being accused of a sellout. As it had with
Ambassadors Edelman and Westmacott on the eve of the
elections, the MFA sketchily outlined its plans to move
forward to re-start negotiations. End Summary.
Election Results Fodder for Both Sides
2. (U) The election results have prodded both the pro- and
anti-Denktash media to think harder about Cyprus than in the
past. Consistently pro-Denktash leftist-nationalist
Cumhuriyet, under the banner headline "Peace Offensive from
Denktash", called the elections a "lesson in democracy."
However, even Cumhuriyet's hard-core socialist-nationalist
columnist Hikmet Cetinkaya hinted at the question of poverty
and corruption under Denktash in his Dec. 17 column. A range
of columnists in other papers, including establishmentarians
like Murat Yetkin in Radikal, are urging the GOT to take
advantage of the opening to solve the Cyprus question. Most
pro-settlement columnists believe that the election results
have created more maneuvering space for the GOT to reach a
settlement and increased GOT leverage on the "TRNC." The
Turkish press has also picked up on the dramatic increase in
opposition votes over the last election as a signal of
dissatisfaction with the Denktash status quo. The media is
awash in speculation about the possible permutations for
coalitions and the effects upon a possible solution. But
while media predictions vary wildly, there is a clear sense
that all eyes are on Ankara.
No EU Post-Election Action Plan on Turkey
3. (C) With the exception of the UK, Ankara's EU diplomats
are still digesting the election results and, like the media,
are caught up in speculation about possible coalitions. Seen
from Ankara, there is no EU plan for engaging the Turks on
Cyprus. Asked what the EU's action plan is, the Dutch DCM
shook his head and wished the EU had one; the German
political counselor said the EU does not need an action plan
-- Cyprus is Turkey's problem.
4. (C) Ankara's EU diplomats are uncertain about the effect
of Cyprus settlement to Turkey's accession hopes. Most agree
that lack of a settlement will be fatal. However, the Irish
DCM claimed Turkey could still receive a date to begin
accession negotiations without settlement on Cyprus, although
he admitted it would be difficult. Several others speculated
that concern about Cyprus would get lost in December 2004
amid concerns about an EU Constitution and the recent
admission of 10 new members. Nor is there unanimity among
Ankara's EU diplomats on the criteria the EU will use in
December 2004 to determine whether Turkey's performance on
Cyprus is satisfactory. Several recognized that, because the
Cyprus question is not formally part of the political
criteria, EU language on Cyprus is vague. However, they
agreed that once the settlement process appears
"irreversible", Turkey will have cleared the EU's Cyprus bar.
MFA Election Readout
5. (C) According to the UK Political Counselor, Turkish MFA
U/S Ziyal and Deputy U/S Ilkin gave their election readouts
to visiting UK Foreign Office Permanent U/S Jay on December
15. MFA spent much of the meeting asserting that the
election in the North were free and fair. Ziyal averred that
he had personally instructed Turkey's "Embassy" in the "TRNC"
and Turkish military on the island not to interfere. The
British side noted that NGOs had raised questions about
fairness; the Turks charged that the NGOs were biased against
the government parties and had given money to the opposition.
6. (C) Ziyal and Ilkin said they hope for a broad-based
coalition government that will avoid past divisions. The GOT
wants to be able to come to a solution without worrying about
accusations of a sellout (of Denktash and Turkish honor) from
important, disgruntled factions outside the AK government.
U/S Ziyal interpreted the elections as showing that Turkish
Cypriots are ready for a settlement, but not at any price.
Turkey's Parliament will not settle for just anything, and
the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) will ratchet
up its rhetoric, he predicted. The government will have to
expend much political capital to get a settlement approved.
Another MFA official added that the AK government's
calculations could be influenced by Turkey's March 28 local
elections; according to the UK political counselor, the other
Turkish officials quickly cut him off.
GOT Timeline for a Settlement
7. (S) Ilkin reviewed the GOT's envisioned timeline, as he
had with Ambassadors Edelman and Westmacott on December 12
(reftel): the GOT will begin talks with Denktash in January,
with an eye toward opening talks with the Greek Cypriots in
the beginning of February. The GOT hopes for an agreed
statement of basic principles and a basic government
structure in place by late April. The GOT does not think it
can finalize all aspects of the negotiations by May 1, but
thinks it can have the basic settlement outline in place,
Ilkin asserted. The GOT is amenable in principle to a
referendum on the results of negotiations, but will not agree
to a referendum without knowing what the text will be. Ilkin
appealed to the British for help in pressuring the Greek
Cypriot side once Turkey tables its proposal.
8. (C) Comment: Despite the clear sense that the ball is
now in Ankara's court to make the next move toward a
settlement, there is currently no public consensus about what
constitutes an acceptable settlement. The GOT, relying to an
extent on the expertise of MFA officials who themselves are
in search of a way to break out of the 29-year stasis, wants
a proposal that garners a degree of consensus. It has not
yet fleshed one out. The lack of a clear plan is also due to
entrenched opposition to a settlement from parts of the
Turkish establishment which have enjoyed a cozy, mutually
beneficial material relationship with Denktash. In any case,
P.M. Erdogan will face a major leadership challenge in
convincing the public to accept compromises on a question
that for decades has been a hot button for Turkey's strong
nationalism. End Comment.
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