Turkish Cypriot President Dr. Derviş Eroğlu was lamenting the incredible lack of “awareness” of some of his visitors on the “fundamentals” of the Cyprus problem.
Was it possible for American Vice President Joe Biden, or the minister or deputy minister of an European Union country, worse, a diplomat of a country engaged in Cyprus diplomacy for the past many decades to say “Well, go through the issues, patch up the differences, compromise and finish this problem … A Cyprus deal is long overdue?” Naturally, anyone with some brains and a tongue administered by conscience and heart, rather than some other trivial interests, must understand the Cyprus problem is not an issue about refugees, property, territory and such, though all those issues needed to be addressed, in a settlement. The fundamental problem of Cyprus is the inability of the Greek Cypriot community to digest the reality that they are not the sole legitimate owner of the entire island. They have a partner; the Turkish Cypriot community. It is nonsense to get buried in semantics and start a discussion whether we have two communities or two peoples on the island. The fact is there are two peoples, one of which is having difficulty understanding that these peoples share a common homeland.
The problem was complicated when one of these peoples somehow managed to use its numeric, economic, fighting power or whatever superiority to kick out the other from the joint government, and under the pretext of the “principle of necessity” managed to obtain “legitimacy” even though the government was no longer composed by the two peoples. It even became far worse complicated when the EU, ignoring the founding treaty of the 1960 Republic, accepted the membership of that all-Greek Cypriot government, which did not even feel the need to ask for the consent of its Turkish Cypriot partner in applying for membership. The 2004, the admission of Cyprus as a member just a week after Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. peace plan (which Turkish Cypriots accepted overwhelmingly) as if to award their intransigence aggravated naysayers.
“Compromise and solve the Cyprus problem.” That has been the target of Turkish Cypriots right from the beginning of Cyprus talks in 1968… Yes, don’t be shocked! The Cyprus problem did not start in 1974 with Turkey’s intervention. The Turkish intervention in 1974 was one of the byproducts of a problem that started in 1963 with Greek Cypriots attacking and expelling Turkish Cypriots from partnership in the republic, forcing them to live in enclaves until they were liberated in 1974. Guess how? With the Turkish intervention and subsequent population exchange deal in 1975.
Past is past, of course, and we all should be able to look forward. Looking forward, but how? Should not we take lessons from our recent past and take adequate measures to prevent those traumas from happening again? Indeed, it was because of this necessity that back in 1977 – and later in 1979 – the two sides agreed at high level meetings that the new Cyprus should be a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. The Greek Cypriots accepting the use of the word “federation” in those statements was revolutionary. Since then, however, they have successfully avoided creating such a federation because they believed the status quo is the best for them. Why? Because under the status quo, Turkish Cypriots are isolated from the world; dependent on Greek Cypriot or Turkish mercy; compelled to eventually surrender and disappear through osmosis in the “Hellenic Cyprus nation.”
50 years on, the Cyprus problem is continuing because Greek Cypriots kept on believing that they are the absolute masters, the sole owners of the land of Cyprus, its sovereignty and that Turkish Cypriots are nothing but a minority that might be given some minority rights. This is a serious obsession handicapping all settlement prospects. Whatever might be offered to Greek Cypriots, they will reject it as long as there is the “partnership of two peoples in territory and sovereignty of Cyprus” in those packages. Since Turkish Cypriots cannot accept anything lower than that, it is perhaps wiser to stop insisting on a federal settlement, which is not wanted by either side anyhow, and start concentrating on a resolution of the Cyprus issue with a two EU member states approach. How much land concessions might Turkish Cypriots have to make to buy out such a deal? Perhaps that’s something to be discussed after adopting the new target for the talks.