Who would’ve thought a young Turkish Cypriot man, accompanied by a cameraman, would cross the Cyprus buffer zone and ask Greek Cypriots the very simple, yet difficult to answer, question: “Would you want your son or daughter to marry a Turkish Cypriot?”
Batu Özuslu first made headlines in the magazine sections of Turkish newspapers when he proposed to his beloved girlfriend, Burçin Emingil, while competing in a quiz program on a mainstream Turkish private TV channel. Crossing the Cyprus divide was of course braver than proposing live on TV. But he deserved a round of applause for exposing the “rejectionist” face of the Greek Cypriots even on the subject of love. Was Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, not born from the foams off Paphos?
After Özuslu’s question, Greek Cypriots, on a social media platform, were mostly talking about the impossibility of Greek Orthodox boys and girls building a life with Muslim Turkish Cypriot boys and girls. Some, of course, were more rational, and agreed that love transcends borders and defies all barriers. But even those people, unfortunately, at one point “agreed” on the impossibility of defying the cultural, ethnic and religious divide.
But a while ago, Özuslu asked the same question to Turkish Cypriots. Most replies surrendered to the issue of the difficulty of overcoming the barriers of prejudices, but almost all participants at the same time stressed that love was beyond everything and that all difficulties could be solved with a compromise.
Compromise is a very beautiful word, but achieving it is not that easy. If that was the case, then perhaps the Cyprus problem would not have continued for the past half a century. Particularly, if there was a 1960 framework the two sides agreed on, how could it be possible to avoid a resolution for the past so many decades? Was the 1960 system not a de facto federation, even though the state was called a unitary republic? With legislative and executive veto powers given to the Turkish Cypriot community and judicial arrangements reflecting the bi-communality of the state, the Cyprus Republic was an effective federation. The effective federation, however, was insufficient in protecting the Turkish Cypriot people from the “Cyprus is Greek” obsession. Since 1977, there was hope that instead of an effective federation perhaps an EU member-state with a full-fledged federal setup would help give the island peace and tranquility.
Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay was interviewed by the Greek Cypriot Politis newspaper on why a federation was not possible. “Was the Turkish Cypriot side ready to resume talks from where they collapsed in Crans Montana on July 6, 2017?” he was asked.
“How can we continue to be part of a process that turned into a vicious cycle? ‘Where the talks were left’ was also the point the talks collapsed. Resuming talks from where they were left is meaningless. There is a very important point that should be stressed on. We do not have a problem only regarding the process. We have a bigger and more important problem with the modality or the basis of the talks. If we do not concentrate on this aspect seriously, any new round of talks would not only be futile, but will not be able to continue further than landing us on yet another dead-end. There is a serious problem regarding the fundamentals of the problem. Both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots talk about a federation based on political equality. Yet both sides understand more than two distinctly different things from the same sentence. We assume that we understand the same thing. Yet when it comes to discussing equality, equal participation, representation, effective participation in governance, rotation of presidency and such, it becomes clear that such an assumption is invalid,” the foreign minister said.
It is difficult as Özersay said. Turkish Cypriots mean the marriage of two equal persons, while Greek Cypriots understand a mistress relationship when they talk about the togetherness of the two people of Cyprus.