Hugh Pope, Director of the Turkey/Cyprus Project at the International Crisis Group, addressed the Brookings Institution

on "Turkey's European Aspirations and its Cyprus Dilemma." Pope has reported on the Middle East for three decades and has met with Turkish, Greek Cypriot, and Turkish Cypriot leaders on numerous occasions. He described how Turkey and the EU (in its previous forms) had been talking tentatively about Turkish membership for decades, and had only really gotten serious in the last few years. This had provoked a reaction among Europeans who were scared of the prospect for some reason, and politicians like Nicolas Sarkozy had capitalized on it to win votes. For many Turkish politicians, the membership process was a goal in itself, and they didn't think too much about membership finally arriving. The rhetoric from hostile European politicians has angered the Turks, who sometimes aim rhetorical barbs back. This leads to talk of Turkey turning away from the West, gravitating toward the Middle East, and so forth, but Pope said that this was nonsense. Turkey was still very much a part of Europe. On the Cyprus issue, Turkey had been working for a settlement and reunification of the island since 2003, a complete reversal of their previous position. Since 2004, when the Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of a plan that the Greek Cypriots rejected, the European Union had attempted to make some overtures to the Turkish Cypriots, including opening direct trade. But since Greek Cyprus had been admitted to the EU at the same time, they blocked the move, along with much of the negotiations on Turkish membership. Eventually a substantial EU aid package was delivered to the Turkish Cypriots and some were granted EU passports. After a new Greek Cypriot president was elected in 2008, negotiations on reunification began again, with both sides apparently acting in good faith. But a resolution had not been reached, and now political developments in the north threaten to derail the process again. Pope argued that none of the major players could afford to let a solution elude them again, and that Turkish leaders, in particular, needed to get more involved. He described a meeting he had witnessed between the Turkish prime minister and a group of Greek Cypriots which had demonstrated that mutual mistrust could be overcome. The Greek Cypriots knew that a deal was in their interests, but they had little direct communication with Turkey, and still worried that Ankara might not follow through. But more frequent contacts between them could help build the necessary confidence.