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Pardes Yehuda: Turkey and Greece to Hold Cyprus Peace Talks

Friday, July 25, 2008

Turkey and Greece to Hold Cyprus Peace Talks

For those not in the know, the way this whole thing in Cyprus started, as I understand it, is that in 1974 there was a half-baked Greek coup to try and claim Cyprus as sovereign Greek land, so the Turkish army jumped in and claimed a chunk of the Mediterranean island. Since then, the international community has more or less shunned Turkish Cyprus, and the conflict has been the final sticking point in Turkey's acceptance into the EU--which in my opinion would be a positive development in world affairs (more on why, below). It also comes amidst a not-so-publicized, in the US, French diplomatic concept called the Union for the Mediterranean (they originally called it the Mediterranean Union, and later changed the name). The Union was supposed to incorporate North African, Middle Eastern and Northern and Western Mediterranean nations. Libya declined to participate. At some point the whole EU got thrown into the mix, and that I suppose is why they changed the name.

The New York Times reports on the Cyprus talks. My thoughts after the jump. (click below)
All in all, I find the Union concept in the Mediterranean rather distasteful when it is packaged as a means for World Bank (i.e., American) and EU funders to grease their wheels. Most of all, until EVERY nation that would participate recognize EVERY OTHER NATION that is participating, it means nothing.

Ultimately, if each Arab nation involved does not recognize the Jewish State of Israel, there is no actual Union. If the Jewish State does not recognize the right to self-determination and statehood of the Palestinian people on their historic land, there is no actual Union.

Yet, the prospect of Turkey in the EU helps make the Union for the Mediterranean more "real," in that it provides the opportunity for Turkey to be a more substantial mediator between the Western and Eastern Mediterranean nations. This is key in regard to finally getting a diplomatic solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Turkey has been playing a key role in getting Israel and Syria to the negotiating table. As of yet, Turkey has been the messenger pigeon for the two nations, because politics are stupid and the two grown men who "lead" each nation will not even shake hands or speak on the phone. Turkey, recently, said it would no longer play that role, and wanted to two to start contacting each other directly.

At the Paris conference in July to celebrate and inaugurate the Union for the Mediterranean, French President Nicolas Sarkozy attempted to posture himself as a potential peacemaker in the Middle East. Track records in peace negotiations show that the US is the only nation who has had substantial success in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. Israel simply does not trust Europe. Perhaps it was the whole letting millions of people be killed, get deported and flee for their lives...

The Palestinians, it seems, do not trust anybody. And they shouldn't--the whole world has treated them terribly. (see, we Jews and Palestinians have so much in common!)

Yet, humor me here. Let's just say that come September, Cyprus does unify by a joint national referendum. This would begin the process, presumably, of Turkey entering the EU. Amidst the fanfare and excitement, Turkey would gain a larger international stature. Some point between now and September (probably sooner rather than later) there will be a new Prime Minister in Israel. Chances are, God forbid, it will be Bibi Netanyahu (who may have hired Carl Rove, eek!). Other people who have been spoken of in the media as possible candidates are Ehud Barak (makes me shiver just thinking about it) and Tzipi Livni.

For those who do not know of Tzipi Livni, she is worth knowing about. I do not have good feelings about any of these candidates (or any Israeli politician; they're as shady as they come, the lot of them, according to polls Israelis think so too). Yet, the prospects of having a woman in the peace process is a positive thing. Livni is a Likudnik through and through, meaning she is hardlined on security and a member of the only party to have made successful progress in peace negotiations, ironically enough.

With Turkey in the EU, and a female Prime Minister in Israel, a real Syrian peace treaty is possible. If Israel and Syria can sign a formal peace treaty and begin to normalize relations it will make it much easier to make peace in Lebanon. I have a firm belief, at this point, that Israel and Palestine will live side by side only after Israel and each of its neighbors make peace, only then will the Palestinians and Israelis be able to successfully sign an agreement, I believe. With a new US president taking office in 2009 a new aspect is thrown in the mix.

If Obama does succeed in becoming president, it provides a unique opportunity for an international approach to peacemaking. The European people are absolutely in love with him (and this is ONLY because he's not George Bush, not a Republican, and not drumming war). Now(ish) might be an opportune time to make an international drive for a few rounds of negotiations, mediated by Turkey, the United States and France. These three provide a unique chance that other nations do not have. Turkey, having begun its process in joining the EU means a few things to Israel. 1) It is a western friendly nation in its neighborhood, a rare thing. 2) Israelis go to Cyprus on a near-daily basis to avoid an oppressive religious monopoly of marriage rites; so seeing a unified Cyprus may have an effect on them and can serve as a model. 3) A stronger Turkey can provide more leverage on Syria, and this would be very reassuring to Israel.

Israelis need US presence in the negotiation as a 'security blanket,' like the kind that babies use. It makes them feel better to have a 'friend' around, and that makes sense. American and Israeli interests are not actually the same, but they at least pretend they are for better posturing. But the ties do run deep.

France is also unique because, although a conservative, Sarkozy has displayed a desire for international cooperation while France is at the temporary helm of the EU. France will hold that responsibility until December--through the Cyprus talks in September and the US election in November. The Israeli election process will likely begin before the end of the summer. This means that Sarkozy will be the European rep during some tumultuous times in global politics. Sarkozy provides a unique opportunity to be a mediator for peace, France is home to very large Arab and Jewish populations. Sarkozy is, himself, part Jewish (on his father's side); and for whatever reason that might even matter. France is a powerful and historic figure in the Middle East as former colonizer and current money-lender and nuclear plant builder. I would have high hopes in removing the Quartet (UN, EU, Russia and US) and creating the Trio (Turkey, France, US) and have the UN, EU, Egypt and Jordan play advisory roles.

Needless to say, things feel like they are reaching a boiling point again in Israel. Cyprus, were they to successfully create a unified nation, may serve as a positive model for the region to sit down and hammer out painful agreements.

Dreaming? Perhaps. Positivity takes optimism.

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