How to achieve a sense of security?
Provided there is political will and an urge for resolution, all aspects of the Cyprus issue might be addressed this way or the other with some bitter compromises by the two peoples of the island. The tackling of one key question, however, because of the traumatic past of the island might not be that easy: How to make Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots feel secure?
It is of course easy to come up with the claim that intercommunal non-confidence, distrust and some degree of enmity, in decline though still existing, were products of the divide-and-rule tactics of the previous British colonial rule. Greek Cypriots might wish to ignore and even totally forget what they have done to the Turkish Cypriot people from the bloody Christmas of 1963 until the 1974 Turkish intervention. Turkish Cypriots might not want to admit perhaps thinking that they deserved far worse but the 1974 Turkish intervention was of course not a small traumatic experience for the Greek Cypriots either.
On the two sides of the divided Cyprus, almost identical car plates are being used. The only difference is that one side uses two characters and some numbers, the other side uses three characters and some numbers. That small difference, however, has been enough for vandals attacking my car at least once every few months as a Turkish Cypriot car. There are some extremists, fascists, vandals among Greek Cypriots trying to take revenge from whichever Turk they might encounter. In northern Turkish Cypriot areas, there is far less report of such hate crimes. Why? Perhaps Turkish Cypriots don’t need to prove their superiority with such oddities or their grudge was satisfied in 1974; they just don’t feel like engaging in such foolish acts. Or was it effective police attitude regarding such cases? In one case when the car I was driving was scratched and painted from one end to the other by some Greek Cypriots I dared to file a complaint with the police. From about 7 p.m. in the evening till the next morning I was not allowed to leave the police station, as if I was under detection, on the grounds of waiting for a translator. For some reason policemen communicating with me perfectly in English were unable to take my complaint in the absence of a translator. In the end my car was damaged, I was physiologically harassed by police for intending to report a crime and those who committed the crime went away with it like all other similar criminals. The treatment I went through was not at all peculiar to me and of course such experiences killed all efforts to rebuild lost confidence of the two peoples in each other.
If one of the musts of Greek Cypriots in any Cyprus settlement is withdrawal of “all” Turkish troops, and if Turkish Cypriots can’t have any sense of security in the absence of Turkish troops, who will the security issue be addressed to? With the U.N. or perhaps EU troops? Well, there is the March 1964-1974 experience with the U.N. troops. They were dispatched to the island to bring an end to bloodshed than turned into one of the tools to enforce all-Greek governance in contravention to the founding agreements and the constitution of the republic. Can Turkish Cypriots forget how U.N. troops watched them being massacred by EOKA herds? Can Turkish Cypriots who went through such an ordeal accept replacement of Turkish troops with any other international force? Unfortunately no.
The only way out might be Turkey’s membership of the EU or some interim arrangements giving Turkey EU rights as regards Cyprus because in such a case Turkey would have as many rights in the whole of Cyprus as Greek Cypriots or nationals have in any other EU country.