Rather than discussing why the process collapsed at Crans Montana, or whether there ever will be an opportunity to strike a federal deal, it might be wiser to look why there could not be a Cyprus deal after so many decades of talks since they first started at a Beirut hotel back in 1968?
Perhaps it is high time to consider what went wrong in all attempts since 1968 that so far there could not be a settlement? Rehashing the same old process and expecting a different result this time would be awkward if not insanity. Was Albert Einstein wrong, anyhow, when he said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 60 years must be more than enough for everyone that the methods and the targeted results of the Cyprus talks process was unproductive, insufficient and probably not result oriented. Of course, many people might think no one may start a process with the intention of failing. But, why all Cyprus initiatives failed becomes easy to understand if the aim of one of the parties has been to play for time, consolidate its status as Cyprus government – a title usurped by force – in the meantime, and expect the Turkish Cypriot people get exhausted and agree to patch up to that government as a “privileged minority.”
If, of course, the Greek Cypriot side insists the whole island belongs to it and only itself has the right to singlehandedly rule it but if Turkish Cypriots want so much might agree to provide them some minority rights, obviously there can never be a Cyprus deal. Cyprus, as was once written by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is the common house of the two people that share the same homeland. Definitely, the relationship between these two people cannot be one of majority and minority and as long as the Greek Cypriot side insists in perceiving equality of two people as a majority succumbing to a minority, there can never be a Cyprus accord.
“Two states in EU” is a magical formula
There appears to be a problem in understanding what a magical tool a “Two states in EU” idea might serve for a resolution of the Cyprus problem that defied repeated efforts and armies of mediators since the 1968 start of the Cyprus talks.
The two sides on the island have certain obsessions. Irrespective whether they might be understandable or products of some phobias, these obsessions must be answered adequately if there ever will be a mutually acceptable solution on the island. Besides, because of the geopolitical importance of the island and eastern Mediterranean not only for the two people of Cyprus or the countries of the Mediterranean basin, but also for the countries that have economic, political interests and even military aspirations.
If we focus on Greek Cypriot obsessions first, we should underline their inability to comprehend that Cyprus is the home of two people the relationship between who is not one of minority and majority but one of sharing the same homeland as two political equals. Even though while the island was part of the Ottoman empire Greeks were just the “Christian subjects”, during the British rule and when the 1960 republic was being created the fundamental basis were the political equality, autonomous education, religious affairs and local administrations. It must be remembered that the 1960 system was an effective federation with Turkish Cypriots enjoying veto power both at the vice presidency, government level as well as at the legislative aspect. Besides, separate municipalities, education and religious affairs systems were continued. It was indeed the Greek Cypriot refusal to abide with the effective federation principle of the 1960 republic that the 1963 horrendous and genocidal attacks that aimed to cleanse the island from Turkish Cypriots was launched.
The second obsession is the Turkophobia produced by the 1974 Turkish intervention. Forgetting that the Turkish intervention is not the cause but the by-product of the Cyprus problem, Greek Cypriots demand an end to the guarantee system and withdrawal of Turkish troops (and settlers) as a precondition for a settlement.
As regards Turkish Cypriot obsessions, on the other hand, high on the list are the “minority complex” and the “communal trauma” the 1963-1974 Greek Cypriot attacks produced. Obviously, numerically Turkish Cypriots are lesser compared to Greek Cypriots, but as explained earlier, there never ever been a minority-majority relationship between them and the Greek Cypriots. They are the equal co-founders of the Cyprus republic from whose administration, legislature and offices they were kicked out by force in 1964.
Yesterday, a speaker, probably slip of the tongue, made a gross mistake here when he said Turkish Cypriots withdrew from the Cyprus government. There is a difference between withdrawing from a government and being turned down at the stairs of the House of Representatives at gun point. He was right, however, that Greek Cypriots refused to accept the Turkish Cypriot equal political rights and partnership in the administration of the island provided by the 1960 system.
Indeed, this is the fundamental element of the Cyprus problem.
All through the past many decades of the Cyprus peace making exercise Greek Cypriots have always been the party that obstructed a deal. Not only a Turkish Cypriot journalist makes such an assertion, a prominent former Greek Cypriot politician, Nikos Rolandis – a politician who served under both Makarios and Kyprianou – wrote many articles revealing that Greek Cypriots rejected dozens of golden peace opportunities. Shall we look at some of them?
Peace moves rejected by Greek Cypriots
1- 1948: Consultative Assembly: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
2- 1955-56: Harding proposals: Greek Cypriots rejected them.
3- 1956: Ratcliffe Constitution: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
4- 1958: Macmillan Plan: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
5- 1959-60: Zurich-London Agreements: Greek Cypriots violated the text and spirit of them in 1963 (through the efforts to amend the Constitution) although they initially accepted them during the process that led to the creation of the 1960 partnership state.
6- 1964: Acheson Plan 1 and 2: Greek Cypriots rejected both of them.
7- 1972: Agreement of Clerides-Denktaş: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
8- 1975: Bi-communal Arrangement: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
9- 1978: Anglo-American Canadian Plan: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
10- 1981: Evaluation of Waldheim: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
11- 1983: Indicators of Perez de Cuellar: Greek Cypriots rejected them.
12- 1985-86: Consolidated Documents of Perez de Cuellar: Greek Cypriots rejected them.
13- 1992: Set of Ideas, Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Greek Cypriots rejected them in 1993.
14- 1997: Annan’s proposals at Troutbeck-Glion: They could not go through with Greek Cypriots insisting not to agree to a deal based on political equality
15- 2002-2004: Annan Plan: Greek Cypriots rejected it.
16- 2008-2017 exercise: Collapsed at Crans Montana with Greek Cypriots refusing to share power with Turkish Cypriots.
The fundamental problem
In volume three of his memoirs, former Greek Cypriot negotiator and president Glafkos Clerides succinctly expressed the crux of the Cyprus problem: “Just as the Greek Cypriot preoccupation was that Cyprus should be a Greek Cypriot state, with a protected Turkish Cypriot minority, the Turkish preoccupation was to defeat any such effort and to maintain the partnership concept [political equality],” he wrote. As such, the Cyprus problem according to Clerides “was a conflict of principle and for that principle both sides were prepared to go on arguing and even, if need be, to fight, rather than compromise.”
If Turkish Cypriots were not mercilessly subjected to waves of genocidal Greek Cypriot attacks from 1963 until Turkish intervention put a firm full stop in 1974 and since then provided the island with a period of uninterrupted peace, it would perhaps be easy to accept demands for an end to Turkey’s guarantor status.
Turkish Cypriots were saved from a total annihilation with Turkey’s 1974 intervention and thus demand continuation of the guarantee system as well as maintenance of at least a noteworthy strong Turkish military presence as a “sine qua non” of any deal with Greek Cypriots.
There are of course territorial aspects, as well as property issue which at the individual level might be the most important and painful chapter of the Cyrus problem.
Under these conditions, even if the Cyprus talks aimed at creating a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation continued for another century, as long as either of the two sides change their fundamental positions, which appears very unlikely, unfortunately there will never be a resolution on the island.
In a two state within EU resolution idea, however, provided the two sides agree to a pledge that they would not join with any third country and would not leave the EU, there will be a de facto federation under the EU roof as EU’s four freedoms would create such an atmosphere. With Turkey given EU-member like rights limited to Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots would satisfy their security concerns. With such a move, there would not be even one single Turkish soldier or settler on the Greek Cypriot territory. The problem would be downsized to a territory vs sovereignty deal and a generous compensation scheme for the property dimension.
Who wants a deal on Cyprus
Who is pro-settlement regarding Cyprus, who is not? To put it frankly apart Turkish Cypriots and Turkey there appears to be no subscribers of a Cyprus resolution around. There is often a claim that Britain has always supported a Cyprus deal. Outrageous lie. There are claims that the United States wants a Cyprus resolution. Just a fiction. The European Union is often claimed to be very much interested in a negotiated resolution of the intercommunal problem of the eastern Mediterranean island. Why, for God sake, it accepted the Greek Cypriot-administered Cyprus Republic as a member representing the entire territory and people of the island and further devastated the already dim prospects of a compromise resolution?
No one should mention Greece as a supporter of a Cyprus deal either. Was it not because of the greed of Athens to expand its territory to include Cyprus as well that the Cyprus problem came to being? Was it not the Greece-engineered coup of July 15, 1974 that triggered the July 20, 1974 Turkish intervention? Why Britain did not join Turkey in that intervention? Was it not also a guarantor power together with Turkey and Greece? Greece was stirring up problem, Britain was standing by and watching unfolding of a catastrophe. Greece was the “cause of the problem” while Britain was happy that there was a problem between the two people of the island and no one focus on ways to get rid of the “sovereign” British bases on the island.
Turkey has its own problems and perceptional shortcomings regarding Cyprus and eastern Mediterranean.
With its almost 1600-kilometer-long Mediterranean coast, almost 30 billion dollars annual tourism revenues and a strategic pipeline hub, Mediterranean Sea and of course Cyprus have existential importance for Turkey. Why would it abandon Northern Cyprus even if there were no Turkish Cypriot living on the island? If a non-negotiated Cyprus resolution most likely produce a friendly Northern Cyprus state and a hostile Southern Cyprus state, why would Turkey want such a situation. It is in Turkey’s best interest to have a negotiated Cyprus deal and achieve a united, federal, confederal or two-state Cyprus resolution agreed with the free will of the two people of the island and in peace with Turkey. Only that serves Turkey’s best interest
Britain is there. Russia has special agreements with the Greek Cypriot administration and can “sovereignly” use naval and air bases in Southern Cyprus. France likewise has special accord with Greek Cypriots. US is using the British bases through bilateral deals, as well as through NATO. But Turkey is asked to abandon the island.
If not for anything else for deterrence to avoid repeat of the 1963-1974 Greek Cypriot genocidal campaigns against them indiscriminately most Turkish Cypriot people will never agree to Turkey totally withdraw its military and terminate its guarantor status. Thus, if there ever will be a settlement the Greek Cypriot side must abandon its “zero troops” and “zero guarantees” adamancy.
The guarantees issues is one important and complex dimension of the Cyprus problem. Because of the contradicting security perception of the two peoples of the island, a resolution of it is almost impossible.
When Cyprus was becoming independent from Britain in 1960, the Cyprus Republic was based on a foundation that the two politically equal Cyprus peoples as well as Turkey and Greece would have some sort of a “balance” or to put it better, a “domestic balance” and an external balance.” The domestic one was between the Greeks and Turks of the island and was built respectively on the notion of a seven to three ratio in political representation, power sharing and at all organs of the state. Besides that, the “numerically smaller” Turkish Cypriot community was given effective veto powers to protect its rights. The Turkish Cypriot vice president, for example, could veto all policy undertakings, parliamentary resolutions and executive orders of the president if he believed the principle of equality was breached or through such acts rights of his people was endangered. On the other hand, special quorum was required regarding legislation of sensitive subjects regarding security, taxation and such. Three of the nine ministries – one of them defense or interior and the other agriculture — were to be always filled by Turkish Cypriots. The Cyprus problem started with the Greek Cypriot side trying in 1963 to change this with a constitutional amendment that Turkish Cypriots opposed.
The external balance was between Turkey and Greece. With British suggestion and as a measure against probable Greek attempt to annex the island with Greece, the guarantee agreement was signed and along with Britain the two countries have become guarantors of the 1960 system, as well as territory and sovereignty of Cyprus. For Turkey, guaranteeing Turkish Cypriot security was the prime aim of becoming a partner of this accord. Also, together with Cyprus Turkey and Greece signed an agreement under which the two countries deployed small contingents of military presence on Cyprus. Britain, on the other hand, secured itself two sovereign bases.
The establishment agreement of the Cyprus Republic, Constitution of Cyprus, treaties of guarantee and of alliance and the British bases accord are all elements of a parcel of agreements that are valid together. If anything happens to one, all the rest vanishes from existence as well. Thus, talking guarantee issue without mentioning the future of British bases, or refusing to accept that if ever there will be a settlement a new state will come to being is just waste of time.
On the other hand, at a time when British bases are so important for Britain, Greece, Russia, France and the Americans use the Greek Cypriot side through bilateral agreements either with Britain of Greek Cypriots, why would Turkey, a country with the longest shore in the Eastern Mediterranean pack up and leave Cyprus, as I just stressed, even if there was no Turkish Cypriots living on the island?
Foreign mediators and diplomats often claim that if Turkey agreed to withdraw its troops, terminate its guarantor rights, including the right to unilateral intervention, and talks resumed from where they crushed at Crans Montana, there was a high prospect of success in a new round of Cyprus talks. Neither the guarantee system, nor the Turkish intervention of 1974 or the Turkish troops or “settlers” on the island, however, are among the root causes of the Cyprus issue. The root cause is and was the Greek Cypriot greed to make Cyprus a Greek island and refuse to share the land and administration of Cyprus with the other community. Why was so? Because the Greek mentality never ever grasped the reality that Turkish Cypriots have at least as much rights the Greek community has.
Despite repeated attempts federation proved to be a target impossible to achieve. A new basis and a new target is needed for Cyprus talks. Time is to consider “two states in EU” or similar settlement ideas.
Greeks don’t have much options
Indeed, Greek Cypriots have two options in front of them to make a choice: 1- To continue with the current “All mine and only mine” greed, refuse to share power with Turkish Cypriots and at the end of the day to see a Turkish Cypriot state with present territory, unrecognized or recognized but firmly integrated with Turkey, or 2- to negotiate a two-state deal with Turkish Cypriots, get some concessions and place Turkey at arm’s length. If these two states will be in EU, then Turkey must have EU-member like rights limited to Cyprus if it is still out of the EU.
Two states in EU will not be an easy
Regarding sustainability two states in EU appear to be rather important. However, achieving it will not be easy. First of all there will be strong opposition to any such development from the EU member states with minority problems or who already have territorial integrity challenges, such as Spain. Therefore, rather than negotiating a deal with the EU, the two sides on the island must first achieve a deal and only after that should knock on the door of the EU to embrace the resolution they achieved. In this process, the EU cannot play further than the role of an observer, perhaps a facilitating observer.
A new world is shaping up
Power sharing, on the other hand, is not a problem peculiar to Cyprus. World is no longer the bi-polar world of the Cold War era or the post-Cold War unipolar one. A new multi-polar world is shaping up. World is realigning as it becomes clearer that no country should make up plans ignoring four global powers: United States, Russia, China and the European Union.
Probably the world may not need another Yalta conference of the two superpowers of the post-World War II Europe. But, this way or the other the residues of the World War II system, the so-called secret Sykes–Picot Agreement of the 1916 will have to be replaced with a new world order…
Whether we want a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, confederation, two independent states or two states in EU settlement formulas on Cyprus, do we have the luxury of ignoring the presence and interests of Russia in this geography? Not only through the Cyprus Church and the communist Progressive People’s Party (Akel), Russia has leverages which if used might paralyze everything on and around Cyprus. Any Cyprus deal ought to take into consideration the Russian interests factor as well. Why, for example, Akel changed its opinion from supportive to rejectionist regarding the 2004 UN peace plan for Cyprus? What was the role played by Russia in that decision that killed a golden opportunity? Or, perhaps it ought to be considered well can Russia accept a Cyprus resolution with which the island might become a NATO territory, fully integrated in the European Union and became de facto an American watch post?
Whatever the eventual settlement of the Syrian quagmire might be, irrespective whether the Kurds like in Iraq end up with an autonomous self-administering region or whatever, can it be possible to achieve anything by undermining the Russian interests in that country and beyond. Turkey and Iran are of course are among some other major elements in deciding the future of Syria, but if and when United States and Russia agree on a power sharing scheme in the region, could either of them play any worthy role in shaping tomorrow’s Syria or whatever might be left out of it?
Does it matter how rich might be the hydrocarbon findings of foreign companies unilaterally given contracts by the Greek Cypriot government to explore in the exclusive economic zone of the island? Not only problems of how any hydrocarbon find might reach to international markets or whether Turkey would be the primary or most logical customer, how realistic would it be to expect Russia sit idle and allow European – and Turkish – dependency on energy be drastically altered?
As farfetched and illusionary it might appear for now, could it be ruled out all together the prospect of the Donald Trump’s Eurosceptic US engage in a power sharing with Russia, trade the Middle East influence with isolation of China and usher the world into a new global power sharing regime?
These and other wilder ideas and perspectives must be taken into consideration in pondering on what new steps might be taken, a new national strategy is being penned down.
It took years to make the Greek Cypriots move some inches away from the obsession of making Cyprus a totally Greek state with Turkish Cypriots enjoying a privileged minority status, though latest remarks of Nikos Anastasiades still underline that he insists on remaining an ostrich and by keeping his head buried in sand he might not see Turkish Cypriots enjoying full political partnership rights.
The world is of course not the one of 1959-1960 or the one in 1974. Similarly, neither Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, nor Greek Cypriots, Greeks and the global community of nations are same. Forging with American backing an axis of evil together with Israel, Egypt and Greece against Turkey might not be in the best interest of either one of the members of that group. As Greek Cypriot Akel leader Andros Kyprianou has recently warned, keeping Turkey out in eastern Mediterranean energy plans might be very costly for all those states.
On the other hand, in the changing and realigning world, who could guarantee that tomorrow there might not be some mutually beneficial deals between the local “big brothers” frequently shunned by the American-encouraged axis of evil?
Today, the Greek Cypriots and the EU – fearing Turkish Cypriot “secession” might set a precedence to independence or self-rule aspiring communities within EU-member states – might not welcome calls for a two-states in EU but with or without a negotiated deal between the two people of Cyprus are not there the prospect of a full-fledged two separate states?