A group of Turkish Cypriot deputies proposed the Republican Assembly declare that developments of the past two years of talks with Greek Cypriots showed there was no longer a ground to establish a federal settlement on Cyprus. The move angered supporters of federal resolution in both Northern Cyprus and Greek Cypriot south, while probably with Ankara’s intervention the proposal was sent to a parliamentary commission “for further study.”
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı was on the front pages and TV screens attacking the 19 deputies that filed the proposal in the 50-member unicameral legislature. Greek Cypriot leadership contacted the EU, Britain and United States and asked their assistance to fend off moves in Northern Cyprus aimed at consolidating the Turkish Cypriot state. President Nikos Anastasiades reiterated his determination if reelected to return to the federation talks immediately after the February presidential elections.
The atmosphere of the talks were poisoned in the last eight months of the process before they collapsed in July 1t Crans Montana, Switzerland, over sharp differences of the two sides on security, governance and political equality. First, Greek Cypriots adopted a decision in the House of Representatives ordering commemoration of the anniversary of the 1950 “enosis” (union with Greece) plebiscite. After Turkish Cypriot outburst that such a move contradicted with the spirit of talks, that the Democratic Rally Party (DISI) proposed a draft for the authorization of the Education Ministry to decide which days to mark in the schools rather than leaving such issues to the parliament. Days after that draft was voted, however, President Anastasiades – though he was the former leader of DISI – did not approve it into law, fooling Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı who without waiting the Greek Cypriot leader’s decision on the issue declared he was satisfied with the move and would return to the talks. Still, moments after Akıncı said he was returning to the talks, Anastasiades was at a ceremony commemorating the former guerillas of the “Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston” or “Ethnic Organization of Cypriot Fighters” (EOKA) terrorist group blamed by Turkish Cypriots as the culprit of many atrocities.
The collapse of the talks at Crans Montana was not the sole reason behind the “Cyprus federation is dead” conviction. It was just the last drop that spilled the glass but the glass was filled over the past months with lots of sufficient nasty undertakings of the Greek Cypriot leadership any of which could be used as a legitimate reason to kill the talks if that was the aim.
An accurate diagnosis is a must for a successful cure. Is there any meaning in pretending as if talks were continuing while the two sides lost confidence in each other? Is there any benefit to anyone to pretend as if nothing has happened and the talks would resume in a “business as usual” format? Did not we spend sufficient time with a failed effort?
That is, for the Greek Cypriots the “status quo” has been unacceptable.
Greek Cypriots believe the Cyprus problem started on July 20, 1974 with the intervention and subsequent occupation of one third of the island by Turkey. For them the Cyprus problem is an issue of invasion and occupation, some 200,000 Greek Cypriots uprooted from their properties in Northern Cyprus. Where is Turkish Cypriot people in this presentation of the problem? As for the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots are a group of people that came to Cyprus some 500 years ago and forgot to go back. Cyprus is a Greek island, Turks should behave accordingly as a “privileged minority.” For the Greek Cypriot side the Cyprus problem can be resolved with Turkish military and mainland Turks who have settled in Northern Cyprus since 1974 must all return Turkey, all refugees returned to their pre-1974 properties, and Turkish Cypriots are accommodated in the Cyprus Republic like other minorities.
That is, for the Greek Cypriots the “status quo” has been unacceptable.
The legitimate co-partners of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots, were left without a state after they were ousted from the partnership state following the so-called “Bloody Christmas” campaign of December 1963. 1963-1974 period was a long 11 years during which Turkish Cypriots were the target of a systematic total annihilation campaign. The “Akritas” and “Ispestos” plans manifested the genocidal threats Turkish Cypriots compelled to resist. 1974 intervention that followed an Athens-inspired coup by supporters of uion with Greece (Enosis) brought peace for both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. In between July 15 coup and Turkey’s intervention on July 20, at least 1,500 Greek Cypriots loyal to Makarios or opposed to Enosis were killed (some of them buried alive) by putschist Greek Cypriots.
Turkey’s 1974 intervention provided an uninterrupted security for Turkish Cypriots. 1975 population exchange consolidated bizonality. Repeated rounds of Cyprus talks since 1968 could not provide a resolution. Except Turkey, the Turkish Cypriot state is not recognized. International isolation has crippled progress of all sectors of economy though compared to 1974 much headway is achieved.
Yet, the “status quo” has been unacceptable for Turkish Cypriots as well.
The “status quo” has been unacceptable all along for both sides on the island, but from totally different perspectives. Greek Cypriots cannot accept Turkey’s presence on the island and the de facto two-state situation. While the primary demand has always been a resolution within a unitary Greek-dominated state, a federal arrangement might be a convenient option. They cannot accept either the de facto bizonality and bicommunality, through reintroduction of unhindered and unrestricted freedoms of travel, settlement, owning property and investment, they hope to kill in time both the bizonality and bicommunality aspects of a resolution. They want to change the status quo with a resolution under which the Cyprus Republic will be evolved into a federation with Turkish Cypriot “minority” patched up with some “advanced rights.” Turkish troops and settlers should as well leave the island. Main target is to get the maximum possible with minimum compromise from the unitary state.
Turkish Cypriots don’t want a return to pre-1974 conditions. They consider Turkey’s guarantee and military presence as a sine qua non of a settlement. Political equality and effective participation in governance have been their red lines. Bizonality and bicommunality considered backbone of any deal. Though they prefer a “two states in EU” because of international pressure might agree to a federal resolution which indeed might be closer to a confederation.
To heal any condition, there is an absolute need to make a proper prognosis and an accurate diagnosis. What is the Cyprus problem? Before this question is adequately and accurately answered, a resolution will not be possible. Is the Cyprus problem one of military intervention? Or is it a problem of occupation? Is it a one of refugees, displaced people? Can it be a problem of lost properties? All these and various others are very important, but they are not the “root cause” of the conundrum which has been defying all resolution efforts since the 1968 start of the Cyprus talks process. They are some of the by-products of the problem.
The Cyprus problem is one of power and sovereignty share between the two equal communities of Cyprus; the Greek and Turkish Cypriot people. It was these two communities who decided in 1960 to establish on their common homeland a unitary state, but an effective federation according to the founding agreements and its constitution, the Republic of Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot people did not betray their treaty or constitutional commitments. However, for Greek Cypriots the 1960 republic was just a stepping stone in their quest to achieve “Enosis” or union with Greece. Archbishop Makarios III, the Greek Cypriot leader who became the president of the new state, was loyal to the 1950 “Enosis” plebiscite orchestrated by Makarios II, and was considering independence from Britain as a development that brought Greek Cypriots a step closer to achieving their aim of annexation to Greece.
Makarios, as president, made his first and last visit to Ankara in between Nov. 22 and 26, 1962. There were two main items high on the agenda of Makarios in Ankara. 1- A proposal for an amendment to be made in the constitution of Cyprus and, 2- Seeking Turkey’s help to overcome acute water shortage on the island. He wanted to feel the pulse of Turkey, one of the three guarantor powers along with Greece and Britain, before taking any action.
Ankara disapproved constitutional amendment plans of Makarios, and the Cypriot president shelved the water pipeline project that he feared would make the island dependent to Turkey, did not believe technologically it was possible, but anyhow was proposing it as a carrot to Turkey.
What did Makarios aimed at achieving with the infamous proposal? Primarily, he wanted
I – to have the Greek-Cypriot President and the Turkish-Cypriot Vice-President elected by the Greek-Cypriot dominated House of Representatives as a whole (not by the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish- Cypriot members separately);
II – to remove the veto powers of the Turkish-Cypriots;
III – to reduce the Turkish-Cypriot component in the civil and military arms of government;
IV – to abolish the separate community voting on fiscal, electoral, and some other matters; and
V- to unify the municipalities. (The two people of the island had separate municipalities in mixed settlements).
That is, the aim was to eradicate the “effective federation” character of the Republic of Cyprus and transform it into a Greek state, with a privileged Turkish minority.
Each time Cyprus talks approached towards creation of a new partnership state based on political equality of the two people of the island, unfortunately, the Greek Cypriot side engaged in an effort to kill the prospect of a resolution. According to former Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Rolandis on at least 28 cases the Greek Cypriot side torpedoed prospects of a resolution.
In the latest exercise, many convergences were achieved making analysts believe that a resolution might be within reach. Yet, as less important issues were left behind and the two leaders started to concentrate on governance sharing, political equality, territorial aspects, security and such thorny subjects, tensions started to build up at the negotiations table. Particularly, at least in the last six months of the talks the Greek Cypriot side was busy in trying to kill the achieved convergences rather than adding new ones while the exhausted Turkish Cypriot side was trying to find a magical formula to salvage the talks or better reach a surprise resolution. At what cost? Instead of negotiating a resolution Akıncı and his team started begging for peace, or at least to maintain the negotiations table intact. Was there sufficient progress in all other chapters to merit convening of a five-party international conference? Was not there an understanding between the two sides, shared by the UN as well, that only after negotiations completed in all other chapters the 5-party international conference (the two sides on the island, and three guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and Britain) would convene to discuss the security and guarantees heading and finish off the process with a grand give-and-take process on territorial aspects?
Seeing that Anastasiades and his team were preparing to run away, Akıncı compromised in a defeatist manner, even gave a territorial map for the first time in the history of the Cyprus talks and forced convening of the first the Mont Pelerin rounds of talks and later the five party conference in Geneva which with an interval continued at Crans Montana. What happened in Switzerland? Greece was unprepared, unwilling for a compromise deal. Anastasiades was unprepared and unwilling for a compromise deal that might produce a new partnership state on the island. Despite two rounds of intervention by the Un secretary-general, the talks ended in total failure.
Now can the Cyprus talks resume in March-April next year after the Greek Cypriot presidential vote, and the Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections? Akıncı has been saying Turkish Cypriots can neither change the parameters of the talks – a reference to the already dead initiative of 19 deputies to shunning a federal resolution – nor spend another 50 years pretending as if talking.
If Greek Cypriot leadership has committed itself to return to talks after the vote in February and if the Turkish Cypriot leader has started defying his own declarations that federation hopes were dead and now trying to make a U-turn to the talks, the question oght to be not whether the talks would resume but perhaps when they will resume.
Still, will there be a successful outcome? Unfortunately, not.