Time to restructure the Turkish Cypriot state
Whatever Turkey and Turkish Cypriots say, the international community perceives the Turkish Cypriot state as a subsidiary of Turkey rather than a full-fledged entity with some degree of sovereignty. This perception, also cultivated by the Greek Cypriot-hijacked Cyprus Republic, has also been one of the impediments to a resolution of the Cyprus problem. Rather than negotiating with the Turkish Cypriot leadership, particularly in the post-Rauf Denktaş period, Greek Cypriot leaders demand to have “direct talks” with Turkey rather than talking with “its puppet.”
To what degree does this perception reflect the reality or at what degree is it a product of the propaganda machine of the Greek Cypriots? The Turkish Cypriot people have been a self-governing community since their ouster from the partnership state. It was first the administration of the Communal Chamber that lasted until 1974. Then, came the Turkish Cypriot Autonomous Government. That was followed by the Turkish Cypriot Federated State. Finally, after Greek Cypriots started the European Union membership process in 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was proclaimed and a new constitution was made. Whatever the name of the government was, however, establishing a federation with the Greek Cypriot side remained the ultimate target of Turkish Cypriots. That is why even at the TRNC’s independence declaration, there was a paragraph that that state would indeed be the “Turkish element” of the future federal state with the Greek Cypriots.
Now, for the first time in Turkish Cypriot history, there is a conviction that Greek Cypriots were never ever interested in a federal resolution, just played for time, to reach the day when Turkish Cypriots would feel exhausted and succumb to becoming minority subjects of a state administered solely by Greek Cypriots. That is why President Mustafa Akıncı, a politician who devoted his life to the idea of a Turkish-Greek federation based on political equality and a unified “Cypriot identity” started saying the time has come to consider the prospect of two states in the EU as a solution.
Would Greek Cypriots buy that approach? If they really want to have the Cyprus Republic for themselves and are dead serious in not accepting a Turkish Cypriot president even for a short period and are so serious about having “no troops and no guarantees” for their state, there can be no other way. Indeed, top conservative Greek Cypriot personalities conceded in private discussions with this writer that they could buy the two-state settlement rather than seeing a Turkish Cypriot as head of state even for a day. Well, they were using that sentence to demonstrate how determined they were in opposing rotation of presidency, but was there not some truth behind that sentence?
Basic demands of Greek Cypriots have been 1- An end to Turkey’s presence; 2- an end to the guarantee system, 3- return of sufficiently large territory to resettle 100,000 refugees and not to have a governance model that will impair effectivity in governance. Turkish Cypriots cannot give up Turkey’s military presence, even though it might be pulled down to a very negligible amount of 650 as envisioned by the 1960 system of guarantees and of alliance. Neither could they accept termination of the guarantee system. Regarding return of a sufficiently large territory to settle at least 100,000 refugees, there is first the problem of which regions, and after that, what about the rights of the people who made those former Greek properties their new home for the past almost 50 years? Thus, in a two-state deal, Greek Cypriots will see their two basic demands immediately provided. There would be no troops in their state, nor a guarantee scheme between their state and Turkey any longer. In exchange for statehood, on the other hand, Turkish Cypriots would perhaps be more willing to undergo the pain of resettlement for the population uprooted by territorial concessions.
While all these and other prospects are considered and as the two sides as well as an army of international mediators prepare for a new round of talks probably as early as February-March next year—after the Greek Cypriot presidential elections—perhaps it is high time to seriously consider upgrading the Turkish Cypriot state and its relations with Turkey, the only country who recognizes it, and the rest of the international community.
Since even if they start a new round of Cyprus talks, it will just as well be a game for the galleries and the Greek Cypriot side would not be interested in a painful settlement, Turkish Cypriots should engage in a process of upgrading their state, increasing their life standard and showing Greek Cypriots that by playing on time they might not achieve Turkish Cypriot surrender but have a very strong neighbor of Turkey on Cyprus.
Now, it is high time to indulge in long neglected political reforms, the process of harmonizing with the EU and of course, the infrastructure investments that will increase the quality of life in northern Cyprus must be seriously considered. The corrupt politicians and the mechanism of favoritism that both conservative and socialist-led governments failed to correct must be replaced in a new election. Turkish Cypriots can no longer continue as it is.