The doomed Cyprus rendezvous
The Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders were to come together on Sept. 26 with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the U.N. headquarters in New York. The meeting was slated to last only 45 minutes and the Greek Cypriot leader made it clear in agreeing to attend the meeting that “only a review of the process” would be done to brief the secretary-general, “that’s all.” The Turkish Cypriot leader, however, was expecting the meeting to help overcome some remaining hurdles, ordain the secretary-general with some “breaching powers” and open the way to a five-party international conference – a meeting between the three guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and Britain ,and the two leaders – where not only the guarantee issue but also headed by territorial aspects, property and governance issues would be finalized in a comprehensive give-and-take process guided by the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Over many months of talks, indeed, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı and his Greek Cypriot counterpart have come very close to closing four of the six chapters to reach a comprehensive resolution of the Cyprus problem. Was that a great success? Unfortunately not, because on all those subjects, more or less, there have been various forms of rapprochement between the two sides many times in the past, be it in the Hugo Gobbi Ideas of 1989 or the Boutros Boutros-Ghali Set of Ideas in 1992 or the failed Kofi Annan Plan of April 2004. None of those competencies developed, unfortunately, could constitute the backbone of a settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a federal cohabitation of the numerically larger Greek Cypriot and smaller Turkish Cypriot co-inhabitant peoples of the eastern Mediterranean island.
As former Secretary-General Annan wrote in his report to the Security Council – which could not be released because Russia’s objections – on the Greek Cypriot rejection of the 2004 U.N.-brokered settlement plan, Cyprus is the common home of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot peoples. The relationship between them is not one of majority and minority but one of two peoples sharing the same homeland. Unfortunately that conviction was one of the reasons why Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the Annan plan while Turkish Cypriots embraced it with an outstanding approval rate at the simultaneous referenda held on April 24, 2004. Unfortunately, just seven days later on May 1 Greek Cypriots were awarded for their “no” vote in the referendum and embraced by the European Union as full members of the club.
Since then Turkish Cypriots have been under a relentless pressure to walk the extra mile and undertake some further concessions to please naysayer Greek Cypriots to support a federal resolution of the Cyprus problem. This fact itself demonstrates the crooked global perception as well as why a Cyprus resolution has become all the more difficult.
Ever since he came to power in April 2015 Akıncı has been relentlessly working to find a compromise resolution to the Cyprus problem. His “peace at any cost” approach eroded his electoral support and forced him to revisit some of the sacrosanct expectations of his people in an agreement with Greek Cypriots. Yet, he has still been defending a position which most likely will not win approval in a referendum if ever Cyprus talks reach such a stage. Still, he has failed to win hearts, minds and of course a “yes” from the Greek Cypriot leadership.
Putting aside the cross voting insanity, one of those issues, for obvious reasons, is property. Akıncı agreed to a landmark concession and accepted in the resolution of the property issue the “first right to apply” right to the “original home owners” – that is the Greek Cypriot pre-1974 owners of properties in the north. If over 80 percent of the property in the north originally belonged to Greek Cypriots how could be a global exchange and compensation position abandoned and such an attitude be adopted? What would happen to the bi-zonal and bi-communal nature of the federal settlement to be reached? After an outcry from Turkish Cypriots, though nothing changed on the competence paper exchanged with Greek Cypriots, Akıncı made a U-turn and said the bi-zonal and bi-communal principles would not be diluted. How? God knows.
Territory-wise in discreet talks Akıncı agreed to hand over sufficient territory to resettle 100,000 Greek Cypriots and allow as much as 50,000 Greek Cypriots to northern territories. Plus, according to yet unconfirmed but reliable reports, agreed to the creation of two “sovereign” cantons, one in the Karpass Peninsula. Thus, he compromised one-quarter of the shoreline of the Turkish Cypriot state.
The worse was of course regarding the security and guarantees chapter. Though it was agreed right from the beginning that the security chapter would be opened when a five-party conference convened after all other issues were resolved, just to have a trilateral meeting with Ban in New York Akıncı agreed to open up discussion on the guarantees issue, publicly declaring it was no longer a taboo. Not only did he stop talking of an “effective and actual” Turkish guarantee for Turkish Cypriots, he tabled a proposal limiting Turkey’s guarantee with the territory of the Turkish Cypriot state component of the federal Cyprus to be established. He just forgot that he was as well compromising from the rights of not only Turkey but also the Turkish Cypriot people from the whole of Cyprus and confining them to the north.
Thus, the very expensive photo of trilateral meeting at the U.N. headquarters, even if a surprise success story may come out, will just be yet another element for the failed Cyprus initiatives.