Peacemaking requires compromise, goodwill
Even before delegations of the Turkish and Greek Cypriots left for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings, background diplomacy was at work. The immediate goal was to bring together the two “communal leaders” and the U.N. secretary general in New York, either at a “working dinner” or at least at a “social event.”
The British and the Americans were working very hard. The Turkish Cypriot side, as was the case during previous attempts, gave the green light right away at the first contact, expressing its will to participate a trilateral meeting of any sort, without preconditions. The Greek Cypriot side repeated the old song, one of the fundamental reasons why a Cyprus deal has not been able to be reached over the past half-decade of off-and-on peacemaking efforts: “We are the government, they are a minority … We shall not accept a minority being elevated to our level by accepting a meeting with them during General Assembly meetings.”
That has always been the case. Greek Cypriots have never accepted meeting with the Turkish Cypriots on the sidelines of the General Assembly meetings in New York, on the grounds that such a meeting would elevate the status of the Turkish Cypriot side. Despite the fact that Cyprus talks have been held since they started in Lebanon in 1968 “between the two communities of Cyprus,” it has been an obsession of Greek Cypriot leaders not to meet with their Turkish Cypriot “counterparts” during the U.N. General Assembly.
Just the other day, however, Greece and Turkey brushed aside such obsessions and took a historic move by agreeing to receive representatives of the two communities of the island. The foreign ministers did not bother about whether some opponents might portray the reception of Turkish or Greek Cypriot representatives as some sort of “tacit recognition” and a deviation from established policies. On the contrary, they were aware of the fact that talks were being held between two communities and not between a state and a minority (as Greek Cypriots apparently insist on obsessively perceiving the Turkish Cypriots), and that listening to “the other side” might indeed help facilitate a compromise. Was it not that which was expected from Greece and Turkey by the international community?
Now, everyone talks of a Cyprus deal by the end of the year - (I’m fed up with this year-end settlement obsession) – or at the latest by March next year. Indeed, I believe a Cyprus deal is long overdue, as every stone has been turned over several times and no aspect of the Cyprus issue has been left unexplored since 1968. If there is wish to write a compromise deal, it would take few weeks to negotiate the wording, since it is more or less clear what the deal ought to be.
The problem is that Greek Cypriots were not and are still not interested in a Cyprus deal. They just want to play for time in the hope that a frustrated Turkish Cypriot people accept becoming a “community of the Cyprus nation,” thus leading to a Cyprus settlement through osmosis. Turkish Cypriots would have advanced individual rights in the Greek-run Cyprus Republic, but they will not have partnership rights as one of the two founding peoples of the new Cyprus state.
This is a utopia of the Greek side, which might have been achieved in the 1960s had Greek Cypriots preferred to give Turks individual rights, rather than attempting to mass murder them. Now, it is a very dangerous utopia. Peacemaking requires goodwill to walk the painful extra mile and a readiness to make bitter mutual compromise.