The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to freeze Turkey’s EU membership talks, following the recent months of human rights abuses by the government, which has imprisoned tens of thousands of individuals, including teachers, journalists, opposition MPs and lawyers.

The purge came after the attempted coup in July, but is an extension of the Turkish government’s already poor record on human rights abuses of minorities and political opposition groups.

It appears that the choice has been made for Turkey, which is now left out in the cold.

Sabre rattling

As expected, at least by this writer, Erdogan’s move towards authoritarianism has dimmed the prospects for a local solution to Cyprus’ complex political problem as relations worsen between Greece and Turkey, which have opposing positions on security guarantees towards the island.

Turkey is in breach of the 1960 limited security guarantee terms after it invaded and set up a long-term occupation of Cyprus in 1974. The other two guarantors – Greece and the UK – signaled that they were willing to give up their guarantor powers under a reunification deal, but with the recent turn for the worse in Turkey’s domestic politics, Ankara is unlikely to follow suit.

Although President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have made a lot of progress in reunification negotiations, most recently they were unable to agree on the terms of territorial adjustments in a federal, bi-zonal, bi-communal state. Akinci has reversed his original position on the Cyprus problem, and has adopted a hardline stance after being influenced by Turkey which is moving away from democracy and EU membership and towards domestic dictatorship and regional expansion. The end result has been negative for a local solution after the talks on territorial issues held in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, ended in disagreement.

The leaders returned to Cyprus on the 22nd, and are considering their options.

It has been a sad development for the island, said Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides.

“I have heard the words of criticism by Mr Akinci’s spokesman; a criticism that is condemnable and does not reflect, under absolutely any circumstances, what took place at the negotiating table. It is not our desire to engage in a blame game, especially this evening, which is a difficult night for our homeland and – I want to make it very clear – we are not happy at all,” he said after the talks failed to move forward on Monday.

He added: “No matter how many difficulties, no matter how many problems may exist, our willingness and our readiness to work in order to address them is very clear.”

Greece-Turkey relations worsen

Relations between Greece and Turkey are distinctly chilly ever since Turkish President Erdogan said he was dissatisfied with Turkey’s borders, which were laid out in the Treaty of Lausanne after World War I.

“Any dispute of the Treaty of Lausanne is inconceivable and unacceptable since it would be a blatant violation of international law, for which the treaty was fought, and would undermine not only the borders of Greece, but also of the European Union,” said Greek President Pavlopoulos in earlier comments.

Complex

The Cyprus problem has three main components; a reunification of the political and communal administrations; the regional state of play between Greece and Turkey; and the international geo-strategic relations between Russia, the US, the UK and the EU.

Until recently, the local relations between President Anastasiades and Akinci were positive, but now that Greece and Turkey are rattling sabres, the Cypriot leaders are bound to feel the pressure. The relations between Russia and the US were tense until the recent election of Donald Trump to the presidency but the way forward there is still unclear. The EU and Russia may grow closer together now that Cyprus has taken over the presidency of the Council of Ministers, but once again, that’s unclear given the current tensions over Ukraine.

As is usually the case with the Cyprus problem, the story is…to be continued.

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