Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said yesterday that Turkey has agreed to drop its veto of EU cooperation with NATO in return for a commitment that the island of Cyprus, even if it unifies, will remain outside regional security structures.
The EU is moving toward creating its own rapid reaction force, focused mainly on peacekeeping, which would require that it be given rights to use certain NATO facilities. But as a NATO member, Turkey has been able to veto such access for the EU.
Agreement on the issue was reached on the fringes of last week's landmark summit in Copenhagen on EU expansion. Solana, the key interlocutor, said he had worked over the past two years to clinch the deal and finally devised a set of conditions acceptable to Greece, Turkey and the United States. Over lunch with Washington Post editors and reporters, Solana explained that Turkey "did not want to have a divided Cyprus have anything to do with NATO."
Even if an agreement is reached to unify the island, troops in the Turkish segment will be whittled down to a few thousand. Similarly, forces in the Greek part will not exceed the four-digit mark.
"There will also be a United Nations force. It will become an island that will not be able to participate in any alliance such as NATO and the Partnership for Peace, and that will satisfy both," Solana said of the mechanism that unblocked Turkey's opposition to EU-NATO security arrangements. "At the end of the day, even if the island is unified, it will be demilitarized," he added.
There is still hope of a settlement for Cyprus by the end of February, Solana pointed out, despite the Copenhagen meeting's failure to adopt a U.N. plan for integrating the island, which was divided in 1974.
At the meeting, Cyprus was among 10 countries invited to join the EU in 2004. The United Nations has set Feb. 28 as another target date to bring the resistant Turkish part of the island into the settlement. Solana cited demonstrations there because of the failure of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, to go along with the U.N. formula. Growing political opposition to Denktash's stance stems from fears of being left behind while Greek Cypriots reap the benefits of EU membership.
Denktash, 78, has been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks and returned home Dec. 7 after heart surgery in New York. Solana said he expected Turkey's new government to pressure Denktash to go along with a solution and an improved draft of the U.N. proposal.
A Movement Builds in Iran
Gholam Reza Mohajery Nejad, 30, an Iranian student leader who has been jailed and tortured along with other organizers of a growing secularist movement that is demanding a referendum on religious rule, asserted in an interview Monday that the Islamic republic is losing popular support. He predicted that a war against Iraq would fuel unrest in Iran.
Nejad, who was granted U.S. political asylum after 18 months in Los Angeles, said he was in touch with students at home by e-mail, cell phone and the Internet to keep track of the demonstrations now taking place at the rate of one a week.
"I chose to come out and bring the voice of students calling for democracy, freedom of speech, equality and human rights to the outside world," he said. He posts recent arrests and examples of violations of activists' rights on a Web site, along with announcements of organized protests so Iranians can join them and the world can follow what happens.
He said members of Islamic reform groups, who believe in a moderate religious regime that does not concentrate too much power in the hands of the clergy, are beginning to defect to the more secular student movement. He estimated the number in the thousands.
Nejad said workers, women, teachers, young people and students are joining hands after realizing that the system of unquestioned clerical leadership is "not reformable." He asserted that the movement was stronger than the initial student movement in Yugoslavia, which helped result in the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic. "We don't believe in violence, but we believe we have more popular support," he said. "Things are going so fast. No one can predict what may happen. The splits within hard-liners and reformists within the ruling establishment are growing."
Reformist clerics are concerned about losing followers and some are saying that President Mohammad Khatami's time is over, he added. Others, he said, believe it is time to establish ties with the United States, because this is what young people want.
Abbas Abdi, one of the organizers of the U.S. Embassy takeover at the start of the Iranian revolution in 1979, was jailed several weeks ago because he suggested that ties with Washington are now necessary.