Illusion and reality
It is not conducive to the peacemaking process to let illusions – regardless of how wide they might be subscribed to – replace realities. To claim, for example, for more than three decades that there was no People’s Republic of China helped no one, and eventually China was welcomed to take its seat as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Taiwan became a sui generis state, unrecognized, but with strong trade relations with Beijing, which still considers the island as its legitimate territory. This is of course, another illusion.
The U.N., the EU and many other international bodies, institutions and communities of nations recognizing the all-Greek government of Cyprus as the only legitimate government of the entire island is a similar illusion. Not only can the all-Greek government not be the government of the Cyprus Republic, based on the founding agreements and the Constitution, but even if it is not recognized, there is a Turkish Cypriot democracy next door, surviving despite inhumane embargoes and isolation. Are there no problems? In fact, there are many and allow me to cite you some.
With or without the Turkish Cypriots, the Turkish identity of northern Cyprus will continue. The more Turkish Cypriots are kept in isolation, shoved and shunned from everywhere, the more will migrate to somewhere else around the world. Thus, the demographics of northern Cyprus will continue to be altered by new settlers from Anatolia. “Those going and those coming are all Turks, what’s the problem?” The problem is the peculiar Turkish Cypriot culture, which is gradually becoming the same color as the city of London. Will Greek Cypriots continue to waste time with oddities and shrew politics, and then end up having Turkey as their new neighbor in north Cyprus?
EU admission, despite a demonstrated lack of interest in a partnership state, and discovery of natural gas off the island, made Greek Cypriots believe they had increased their strategic importance to the West and the rest of the world, which would in turn tolerate all their spoiled behavior. Furthermore, there is a mentality that the gas discovery will soon help Greek Cypriots become very rich, and why should they share it with Turkish Cypriots? This mentality is not sustainable because it is not based on hard facts.
First of all, the EU deeply regrets giving in to Greek blackmail and admitting the Greek Cypriots, on the back of German-demanded eastern expansion. Secondly, Cyprus’ gas is not sufficiently large enough to add to the strategic importance of the island as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. Furthermore, the Turkish side reasserted its Turkish Cypriot partnership rights in the Barbaros incident. By withdrawing from talks, Nikos Anastasiades has placed the gas issue at the heart of the negotiations. Now he will have to accept either the establishment of a Turkish-Greek ad-hoc committee to administer and share the gas wealth, or declare a moratorium until after a resolution. Did Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu not make the same offer during Demetris Christofias’ time?
Anastasiades believed that by following pro-NATO and pro-U.S. policies, he could get their support and his tiny state would replace Turkey as Washington’s strategic partner in the region. The only success towards this end came in the form of a lofty statement by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, but all other developments have shown how hard the illusions of the Greek Cypriot boat rocked. Developments in the Middle East have not lessened Turkey’s crucial importance for the security of the north Atlantic. Furthermore, by largely billing Russia for the cost of the economic crisis and also abandoning a “multidimensional” or “Moscow-aligned” foreign policy for a more neutral one, Anastasiades has doubly hurt the Russians.
Anastasiades is poised to reject the proposals of the U.N. secretary general’s special envoy Espen Barth Eide, who suggested to leave the Barbaros crisis behind and resume talks. Anastasiades is now hinting he might accept the Alexander Downer-era convergences and return to the 1977 and 1979 high-level agreements. Such a move would be smart, even for Anastasiades, but it will not be enough. The gas crisis he has stirred up must be resolved one way or another before anything he tables can be seriously considered.
Illusions can only bring more traumas, but if the Greek Cypriots accept the Turkish Cypriots’ offer to walk together on a platform based upon the realities of the island, perhaps a resolution is not far away.