The Cairo Islamic Summit and the Turkish Cypriots

13 March, 2013 | Posted By: Andrestinos Papadopoulos

By Dr. Andrestinos N. Papadopoulos, Ambassador a.h.

At the Twelfth Islamic Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) held in Cairo (6-7 February 2013) the Turkish diplomacy was again very active, with a view to promoting its positions on the Cyprus problem. In the Final Communiqué support was declared for a solution based on “the inherent constitutive power of the two peoples, their political equality and co-ownership of the island.” Furthermore, the text stated the following: “We express our solidarity with the Turkish Cypriots and our appreciation for their constructive efforts to attain a mutually acceptable settlement and call on Member States to strengthen effective solidarity with the Turkish Cypriot State.”
We retain the expressis verbis reference to the “Turkish Cypriot State” and the appearance for the first time of the concept of “co-ownership of the island”, which prompted Dervish Eroglou to state that all the points proposed by Turkey were adopted in the Final Communiqué. Time and hard work by Turkey resulted in these extreme positions, a negative development for our side. It should be mentioned that after the illegal declaration, in November 1983, by the Turkish Cypriots of their pseudostate, Turkey upgraded her participation in the works of the OIC. For the first time, at the Fourth OIC Summit held in Morocco (January 1984) Turkey was represented by her President, General Kenan Evren. She wanted to show the importance she was attaching to the OIC, playing the Islamic card, but also to work for the gradual change of the inimical climate prevailing in the Arab countries towards her and to promote her positions on the question of Cyprus.
It should not be forgotten that under the Ottoman empire the Arabs were economically, politically, racially and otherwise suppressed, that the cessation of minorities represents a great menace to many Arab countries, that Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise Israel and that as a NATO member it provokes the sentiments of some Arab hardliners. Time, however, has played its role and in the new environment Turkish economic penetration and other interests influenced traditional Arab friends of Cyprus. Moreover, the change of climate in the Islamic world rendered the Turkish arguments persuasive, especially after the 2004 referenda on the Annan Plan.
At the beginning, the expression of support was very weak. The strongest was for the full equality of the two communities and the right of the “Turkish Muslim people of Cyprus” to be heard at all international fora, where the Cyprus problem was discussed. Gradually, Turkey managed to introduce her positions in the texts of the OIC, using the arts of ambiguous suggestiveness. The following are good examples: The Turkish Cypriot proposal of 31st August 1998 was welcomed, without any mention that it was about confederation. Support was given to the declaration of the U.N. Secretary General of 12 September 2000, without knowing that the Turks are interpreting it as recognition of their own regime. A decision was made that the Turkish Muslim people of Cyprus will participate in the works of the OIC under the name provided for in the Plan of U.N. Secretary General, without any mention of the “Turkish Cypriot constituent state” contained therein. In this particular case, it was only natural that the uniformed participants were not aware that the U.N. Secretary General declared that, if the result of the referenda were negative, then his plan was null and void and any reference, therefore, to its provisions invalid.
The real dimensions and meaning of these texts are better understood if we take into account the following, which limit their importance: From the legal point of view, their importance is diminished, as most of them are in the preamble and not in the operative part of the Communiqué.
Most countries friendly to Cyprus register reservations, whereas those which adopt the Turkish positions vote differently in other fora (54 out of the 57 members of the OIC are Non-Aligned countries). There are, also, many who consider the decisions of the OIC, which anyway are not binding, dead letter, stressing the confusion which prevails during their adoption, as most of the participants do not know whether they vote a draft, an amendment or a final text. Moreover, if we compare the texts in the official languages of the OIC (Arabic, French and English) we will observe that in many cases, language wise, they have a different meaning.
Be that as it may, we should not underestimate their importance. At our bilateral meetings with Arab countries, since we are no longer members of the Non-Aligned, we should stress the pursuit of EU membership by Turkey, which entails recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, withdrawal of the Turkish troops and settlers, opening of the Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels, etc. Moreover, taking advantage of the reaction of certain Arab countries to the ambitions of Turkey to dominate the Middle East, we should persuade our Arab friends that Cyprus is the bridge leading towards Europe and not Turkey. To counter Turkish gains in the OIC we need aggressive diplomacy.