A can’t-miss prospect, but…
Former Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat summed it up at an Istanbul conference: “If Turkish Cypriots are asked if they wanted to unite with Turkey, 80 percent would say no. If Turkish Cypriots were asked if they wanted a settlement without Turkey, again at least 80 percent would say no.” This is an awkward paradox Turkish Cypriots have been living with for some time.
All key political actors in northern Cyprus have been in full consensus for some time perhaps only on one issue: The need to have a quick resolution of the Cyprus problem. Turkish Cypriots cannot afford to miss a prospect for resolution, if it exists. It may appear quite normal that there is such a consensus in northern Cyprus since Turkish Cypriots have been so bitterly isolated from the world for the past number of decades. Unfortunately, no one can honestly claim that for various reasons such a consensus existed all the time over the past half-century. The changing regional and global climate, Turkey’s EU vocation, hydrocarbon resources and frustration produced by international isolation have made Turkish Cypriots pro-settlement.
At an Ankara conference, Foreign Minister Özdil Nami voiced the same conviction that the resolution of the Cyprus problem was long overdue. Furthermore, he stressed that his people wanted a settlement as soon as possible, within months. Back on the island, President Derviş Eroğlu, who created a big political storm with his statement that he was pursuing his former party’s conservative Cyprus policies, attempting to make a correction, stressing that he wanted a quick deal, but not any deal – one that must cater to the key demands of his people.
The Cyprus quagmire resembles a chicken and egg problem. In the web of problems between Turkey and Greece, a resolution to the Cyprus problem might trigger a breakthrough on other key, contentious issues. Or, shall we say, that unless the problems between Turkey and Greece are solved and the psychological barriers are removed, a Cyprus deal is perhaps impossible. Regardless of one’s perspective, the Cyprus problem must be ended for the sake of better relations between Turkey and Greece and thus for the better functioning of cooperation between NATO and the EU. Apart from the benefits it might offer to the two peoples of the island and Turkey and Greece, a Cyprus deal has become a key requirement of Western political and economic security. Particularly after Russia annexed Crimea and made expansionist noises on remaining Ukrainian territory, the Cyprus problem impeding EU-NATO cooperation needs to be solved more than ever.
In any country, elections further complicate issues, particularly if the question at hand is as delicate as the Cyprus issue. Yet, with presidential elections tentatively scheduled for April 2015 and with not only the Turkish Cypriot people becoming strongly pro-resolution but the international conjecture also dictating the need for an early fix, there are factors compelling all key political actors to speak with pro-resolution jargon.
Still, on the Greek Cypriot side, Foreign Minister Ioannis Cassulides, was speaking of the probability of a deal within the next 18 months. Finally a Greek Cypriot politician was talking of the prospect of a settlement though he believed it might only come in 18 months. Only with more international pressure applied on them might Greek Cypriots move toward a bitter compromise deal…