Cyprus, from New York to Geneva...
Eyes and ears were fixed over the weekend on what will come out of U.N. headquarters in New York. Would Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı appear in front of the cameras with a face similar to the snapshot he gave to reporters at the last summit with former secretary-general Ban Ki-moon? Or would he smile this time? Would U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres succeed in patching up the duel of words between Akıncı and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nikos Anastasiades over the agenda of a third round of resolution talks in Geneva?
Counterpart? Who is whose counterpart? That is one of the emerging elements of the decades-long struggle that Turkish Cypriots have been waging for the recognition of political equality of the two people of the island. Will Anastasiades finally agree to political equality? Will he say “Yes” to a rotating presidency and the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in governance of the island?
The aim of the Greek Cypriot leader at the working dinner was to get clearance that in the Geneva round of the Cyprus five-party conferences, high on the agenda would be the 1960 guarantee scheme and how to put an end to Turkey’s military presence on the island. Has he changed his mind and agreed that all chapters would be handled together, and unless power-sharing and governance issues are resolved the security dimension and territorial aspects could not be terminated?
Obviously, without the Greek Cypriots abandoning their “majority” obsession and agreeing to a relationship with the Turkish Cypriots as outlined by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan back in 2004. The former secretary-general, in the run-up to the U.N. plan on Cyprus, better known as the “Annan Plan,” had said the relationship between the two peoples of the island “is not one of ‘minority’ and ‘majority,’ but of two equal communities sharing the same homeland.”
Many Cyprus-watchers would agree that that is indeed a key phrase that may help or block a resolution forever. However, as was shown in the latest statements from Anastasiades saying that the majority should not be expected to be administered by the minority, unfortunately the Greek Cypriots continue to be obsessed with the numerical majority they have in Cyprus. They forget about the equality that the Cyprus republic enjoys in the EU and insist that as they constitute over 70 percent of the population of the island, the relationship between them and the “minority” Turkish Cypriots ought to be a majority-minority relationship and the state ought to reflect the right of the Greek Cypriots to have the sole say on the future of the island. They are, of course, generous in agreeing to give a privileged status for the “Turkish minority” as compared to other minorities of the island.
This obsessive and uncompromising attitude of Greek Cypriots, bordering on insolence, has been demonstrated in all spheres, whether it be the governance of the island, application for EU membership, or natural gas exploration. They have the understanding that whatever is on, around, above or below Cyprus belongs without any limitation to the Greek Cypriot government and people.
Will Akıncı repeat at the U.N. working dinner the demand of the Turkish Cypriot people that - without compromising the eventual resolution and an agreement on how the natural resources of the island would be shared by the two people – a joint committee should be established to oversee drilling and exploration natural resources for the common benefit of the two peoples, on the basis of the principle of the “political equality of two peoples”? Will he suggest the creation of a joint company of the two people to manage offshore gas resources? If so, what will Anastasiades say? Will he stick to that adamant and insulting line: “I will not discuss matters related to the sovereignty of the Cyprus Republic … Such ideas do not even deserve consideration”?
We have to wait for an answer. When this article was penned there were still hours to go until the scheduled working dinner of the U.N. chief with the two leaders. It is, however, fair to say that the answers of Anastasiades are not too difficult to estimate.
Still, it would be a grand humiliation with serious consequences to say “No” to the U.N. chief, so most likely the two sides will prefer to appear as if a compromise might be possible, thus setting a date for a new round of Geneva talks to be participated in as well by Turkey, Britain and Greece.
Will this have a chance for success? Will this bring about the long sought for Cyprus resolution? Am I too pessimistic to say: “Very difficult”?