The devil is in the wording
There is jubilation in the team of Nikos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader. It’s no joke, they have achieved something that no other Greek Cypriot leader has managed over the past so many decades since the 1974 Turkish intervention in Cyprus. Thanks to American background diplomacy, Turkey has succumbed to the demands of opening “direct talks” with the Greek Cypriot leadership, bypassing the Turkish Cypriot side. The success was so great that even if no success is achieved on Varosha or any other issue, Anastasiades might complete his five-year presidential tenure and go to the electorate in 2018 as a victorious leader who has achieved a landmark success: Direct talks with Turkey. Although there are some people thinking more soberly, that’s the general mood on the Greek Cypriot side.
What was that great achievement? Meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, the Turkish and Greek foreign ministers agreed reciprocal visits by representatives of the two leaders of Cyprus to Turkey and Greece. The crux, or perhaps the devil, is hidden in the wording. In those visits, the representatives of the two leaders on Cyprus would be received “on equal footing.” What does that mean? Neither would be received as an envoy of the state or of a community, but both as presidential envoys enjoying the same status.
If Turkey is to receive the Greek Cypriot envoy, according him the same status that Greece would be according the visiting Turkish Cypriot envoy, this would mean Ankara has recognized the Cyprus Republic. With the same logic, Greece receiving the Turkish Cypriot envoy would mean that Athens has recognized the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. With such oddities, Anastasiades of course might try to appease the Greek Cypriot public, but they are not conducive at all to the notion of peacemaking. Presenting the development in terms that Turkey has succumbed to successful Greek Cypriot diplomacy supported by Washington and Tel Aviv cannot be conducive at all with the spirit of talks that the Turkish Cypriots assume will resume soon.
To start with, the idea of Turkey and Greece receiving representatives of the two leaders of the leaders of two sides on Cyprus was first offered by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the 2011 meeting in Geneva with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders. The Turkish Cypriot side immediately accepted the proposal on the condition that representatives of the two leaders were treated equally.
Then Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias asked for time to consider the proposal but never delivered an answer. Why? He, most probably, was bothered by the “equal treatment” clause, scared that Greece meeting with a Turkish Cypriot representative would be considered by some other countries as tacit recognition. At least, how could Greek Cypriots continue asking other countries to shun Turkish Cypriot representatives while Athens was affording diplomatic reception to a Turkish Cypriot presidential envoy?
Each time a foreign dignitary visits Cyprus, meeting the Turkish Cypriot authorities become a big issue. Now, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be visiting the island soon. Will he meet the Turkish Cypriot side and will the Greek Cypriots allow such contact?
That brings us to the ultimate reality: As long as one side is considered the “sole legitimate state” and the other side as a “minority demanding some rights” from that legitimate state, there cannot be a Cyprus settlement. Such a process can only take us to divorce - negotiated, velvet, or whatever!