Çavuşoğlu-Anastasiades meeting: is it about exploring new ways?
For the first time ever the conservative flank of Greek Cypriot politics started to publicly discuss the prospect of resolving the more than half-a-century-old Cyprus problem in a loose federation or even confederation of “two regions.” They are still shy of talking about a loose federation or confederation of Turkish and Greek Cypriot states and still beating around the bush with the “two regions” terminology. But still, this marked a positive move toward acknowledging the reality and thus opening a promising chapter for a resolution on the island.
To the displeasure of Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı, the Greek Cypriot government spokesperson confirmed what already was roaming around for a while: On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with Nikos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader.
Çavuşoğlu disclosed a while ago that Turkey was pro-settlement and, “including the Greek Cypriots,” was meeting with everyone. Akıncı as well confirmed that he was informed of the meeting by Ankara and was not at all displeased with the encounter. He said it was arranged “in order to find out the intentions” of the Greek Cypriot side. However, he warned: “We didn’t see much of a problem in that. My objection is for this becoming frequent. If Turkey and the Greek Cypriot side start negotiating, that would disturb me. I won’t hide this.”
Greek Cypriots have been in tireless efforts over the past almost half century to open direct talks with Turkey for a Cyprus resolution, while Ankara has been stressing the counterpart of the Greek Cypriot side in the Cyprus talks ought to be Turkish Cypriots.
Lately, Akıncı, a devoted federalist, appeared to have been sidelined by Ankara and the conservative spectrum of Northern Cypriot politics. During the General Assembly sessions in New York, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Çavuşoğlu found time to meet with Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay, but “because of scheduling problems” could not come together with Akıncı.
In confirming that Anastasiades met with Çavuşoğlu in New York the Greek Cypriot spokesman did not disclose what the two discussed, but there were already “comments” from people with information of the contact that at one stage Çavuşoğlu asked Anastasiades whether there might be a consideration of ideas other than the bi-zonal, bi-communal federal settlement parameters of the United Nations. He continued with a question: “Confederation?” The answer of the Greek Cypriot leader was short but an unaccustomed one as well: “A loose federation.” According to my informed source, the full stop came from Çavuşoğlu, who said: “A decentralized federation, with stronger two states, weaker central government.”
It was indeed a pre-election consideration of Anastasiades to establish a loose federation with a single sovereignty, single citizenship and effective governance rather than agreeing to a rotation of presidency and political equality “amounting to surrender [of Greek Cypriots] to the minority [Turkish Cypriots]” in a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. Cyprus Mail, for example, reminded that during the presidency of his mentor Glafcos Klerides the Greek Cypriot leader (who was Democratic Rally Party’s leader at the time) once publicly commented that “for example, as a party, we don’t agree with over-centralization just because we supposedly agreed on a strong government in 1977. “What we support is a strong state that ensures a single international personality, single sovereignty, and not allowing anyone to dispute the status of its statehood. At the same time, however, a decentralized federation, as we call, it is needed, in which, especially the domestic issues relating to daily life, should belong to the regions and not the center.”
The reports are promising. However, Anastasiades has been surviving with the support of committed federalist leftist parties. Will he be able to undertake such a revolutionary move that might bring forth the prospect of a resolution? Akıncı as well is a committed federalist. He has almost two years to complete his term in office in April 2022. Will Turkish Cypriots wait until that time or force him to step down? Another complication will be Anastasiades’ term expiring in the summer of 2023. It is probably too early to be optimistic.