Everything the same on the Cyprus front
Things have started coalescing even as confusion in the mind is intensifying. Two days of talks in Ankara and Istanbul among Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other senior Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, have revealed that there will be no major change in positions in the Cyprus talks. Why are Akıncı and the Turkish team preparing to go to Switzerland this week for the five-party Crans Montana Cyprus conference?
Was it indeed Akıncı who suggested, as a compromise, to limit Turkey’s guarantor status to the Turkish Cypriot state’s territory in the prospective federation? If so, why did Akıncı so easily step back during the last round of talks with Turkish leaders? The results of the Istanbul and Ankara talks can be summarized as such:
1) The 1960 guarantee scheme should remain intact.
2) Suggestions to limit Turkey’s guarantee to a certain zone of a federal Cyprus is unnegotiable. Continued attacks on Turkish Cypriots visiting Greek Cypriot areas, impunity accorded to criminals involved in such attacks and hardening ultranationalist sentiments among Greek Cypriots necessitate the continuation of the guarantee scheme for the very survival of a compromise federal settlement.
3) Turkey’s military presence on Cyprus and the effective guarantee for the Turkish Cypriot people and a settlement accord is fundamental.
4) The Greek Cypriot position of dragging its feet, playing for time and gradually eroding all Turkish Cypriot red lines in an ostensible negotiating process is eroding confidence, without which a compromise agreement cannot be reached.
5) In discussing territory and property issues, the principles of bi-zonality, bi-communality, economic viability, security and others agreed at the 1977 and 1979 high-level agreements that became a U.N. parameter for settlement must be adhered to.
6) A trade of land for peace is unacceptable. Greek Cypriot territorial demands, particularly the demand for the return of Güzelyurt (Morphou) is unacceptable. In any deal, there is a need for reciprocal compromises. Peacemaking cannot be done alone. The Cyprus talks may continue for another 50 years, but this expectation of unilateral compromise and the demand that the Turkish Cypriots “walk the extra mile” is not reasonable. A settlement must be built on the mutual acceptance of the two peoples of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots should know that an agreement without Güzelyurt, or without Turkey’s guarantee, is not going to happen.
There were some other elements of the “Turkey-Turkish Cypriot fine tuning” meetings held last weekend, but this much might suffice to shed light on the position agreed upon before Akıncı traveled to Crans Montana for the Cyprus conference slated to start on June 28.
On the other hand, the National Council convened on the Greek Cypriot side. News reports stressed that members of the council reaffirmed that the “majority should not succumb to the minority” and that a settlement must “kick out Turkish troops” and get back the “occupied territories.” Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades attended ceremonies commemorating some terrorist chieftains who are condemned by Turkish Cypriots as the coldblooded murderers of civilians.
Anastasiades “reaffirmed” that the security heading would be resolved, the 1960 Guarantee and Alliance accords would be scrapped and Turkish soldiers would be sent back before other headings are addressed. He reiterated that there was no place for foreign soldiers on an EU country’s territory. A group of political parties, including the country’s third-biggest, the Democratic Party (DIKO), declared a position paper, repeating the old Greek Cypriot demands. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, besides condemning the reading of Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia, found time to reassert that the guarantee accord must be scrapped and that Turkey must be withdrawn from Cyprus.
Why, then, will Anastasiades and the Greek team be going to Crans Montana? If the positions of the two sides remain that far apart and unreachable, why will the Crans Montana talks be held?
If the positions of the sides have been that clear and that uncompromising, is there any reason to expect that one, two or three weeks of discussions, bargaining and brinkmanship at Crans Montana will yield any result other than a statement along the lines of “a Cyprus deal is not possible for now, we will continue our efforts?” Well, those wishing to see a statement along the lines of “Up to here folks, we have failed in our 40 years of efforts, perhaps it is now high time to think about something else” might be shocked if their expectations come true. But, could that be a possibility?
Unfortunately, without any change in the positions of the sides, particularly in the ever-so-adamant Greek Cypriot side, which is unwilling to share power with Turkish Cypriots or acknowledge their security concerns amid the lack of any prospect of a settlement, why the Crans Montana conference is convening is the 5 million-dollar question.
P.S.: I wish a happy Eid al-Fitr, the Ramadan bayram, to all my Muslim readers. May peace be upon all of humanity.