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Secret negotiations on the Aegean issue

   
OpinionsBy Mehmet Ali Birand

There has been an ongoing secret negotiation process between Turkey and Greece.

You may be surprised, but diplomats from both sides have been meeting for a long time and no reports about these meetings have been appearing in the newspapers. Neither Turkish, nor Greek diplomats have been leaking anything.

Doesn't this situation seem strange to you?

If you ask me, this is not normal.

What this means is that, for the first time in a long while, serious things are happening. If it hadn't, we would have seen headlines shouting: "The Aegean is sold."

Issue: The Aegean

Purpose: To settle the issues in 2004 or to decide to jointly apply to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Result: Until now, it seems almost 80 percent of the issues have been resolved.

The current negotiations are solely aimed at finding out the intentions of the opposite side. You will see that after May 1, when the Cyprus issue is behind us, the Aegean Sea will top the agenda.

Every issue concerning the Aegean Sea is being discussed. Not only the sea-bed issue, but also the statuses of some islands are being examined.

If the government under Costas Karamanlis does not does not change anything, the Aegean issues will be addressed in the near future (June-October 2004).

Some should get ready to deal with the situation.
The Holy Synod issue is embarrassing Turkey

As I was talking with some people interested in Turkey in Athens, I realized that the debate on foreigners appointed to the Holy Synod by the Orthodox patriarch is creating difficulties for Turkey.

I asked why.

They said they appointed lawyers to examine the matter and the studies resulted in finding nothing in the appointments that violated laws or regulations. The patriarch made the appointment on a "temporary status." And contrary to what some our columnists and officials say, these appointments do not violate the Lausanne Treaty, they said.

Greek journalists interested in Turkey are hopeful about the appointments. They expect to discuss the Patriarch's Ecumenical status and the religious seminary school issues after the Aegean and the Cyprus issues are settled. I wonder if those who resisted these developments for so long will realize they exaggerated them. Or will they resist until the end? These are the questions yet to be answered.
It is hard for Athens to agree with Ankara on Cyprus

The question starting to be asked after the elections is very important.

"Will the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers fill in the blanks in the agreement when they meet with Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President Rauf Denktas and Greek Cypriot leader Tasos Papadopulos on March 22?"

Without understanding how the Greek governments and the public perceived Cyprus in the past, we cannot form an opinion about what Athens will or won't be able to do when the four-way meetings commence.

In 1974, when Turkey initiated two military interventions on Cyprus in five weeks without any Greek reaction, capturing important portions of the island, Greek Cypriots felt betrayed and angry, while Greek people felt shame. Greek governments have always felt a sense of shame towards their Cypriot counterparts and believed that they paid their dues when they supported Cyprus's full EU membership.

In other words, Greece has learned its lesson. Non-interference in Cyprus's internal affairs has become an accepted political rule.

We are faced by such a country.

Greek Cypriot leader Papadopulos not wanting a solution based on the Annan plan makes our job even harder.

A diplomat close to Greek politics said, "Athens will not want to interfere in the internal affairs of Greek Cypriots again. No one expects them to object to Papadopulos's stance. Their attitude is, "Let's leave it to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to fill in the blanks and let Turkish and Greek Cypriots decide if they really want an agreement."

This is what Athens thinks.

Will it change?

Not likely.

Ankara should not expect miracles from Athens.

I have been saying the same thing from the beginning. Neither Turkish and Greek Cypriots, nor Greece and Turkey, will be able to resolve the issue. No matter what, it will be up to Annan to fill in the blanks.

We should be ready to accept this fact.
  
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