A common vision for a way out of the Cyprus conundrum

A common vision for a way out of the Cyprus conundrum

Ahmet Sözen*
Since the start of the last round of Cyprus peace negotiations in May 2015, the two leaders have reached significant convergence on many aspects, and in fact came very close to an overall settlement regarding the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. The lingering issue that remains is without a doubt the external security and the involvement of the three guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 

Given the many high profile public statements on the issue of security and guarantees, designing a formula that would satisfy the five parties – i.e. the three guarantors and the two Cypriot sides – is certainly a difficult diplomatic endeavor. But it is possible so long as the formula is carefully drafted based on an objective, realistic, and pragmatic analysis. 

However, so far the positions of the relevant sides - especially the two “motherlands,” Greece and Turkey - have been rather maximalist. Until now, each side has engaged in positional bargaining and stuck to their respective opening position in the negotiations. On one side, high ranking Greek officials, such as Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, have repeatedly publicly stated that Greece does not accept any guarantees. In other words, Greece wants to abolish the Treaty of Guarantee and the Treaty of Alliance. On the other side, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and other Turkish officials do not refrain from stating repeatedly that Turkey would not accept any solution without its “effective and de facto” guarantee rights. 

The key to solving the security and guarantees issue is to first look at security from a holistic perspective and second, to start designing a solution for the security issue with a common vision that would be endorsed by all the relevant parties involved in the Cyprus conflict. In other words, a holistic security understanding will move the parties away from the hard power oriented win-lose formulation, and open the way for win-win formulations on the security architecture of the future united federal Cyprus. 

Combining this holistic perspective of security with a “common vision,” is the ideal formula towards both a settlement and consolidated peace on the island. This common vision should aim to create the right institutions in the future united federal Cyprus with the capacity and the resilience to deal with its security problems by itself. The vision should be to create a resilient, united federal Cyprus that would not need any external security-related assistance, unless in cases of an existential threat from the outside. 

Our research shows that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots hold opposite views – that is, they are polarized on hard security issues, such as on the matter of troops and guarantees (intervention rights). While the majority of Greek Cypriots do not accept Turkish unilateral intervention rights and Turkish troops on the future united Cyprus federation, the majority of Turkish Cypriots state that they would not accept a federation without some sort of Turkish guarantees (intervention rights) and presence of some number of Turkish troops.
 However, the research conducted shows that the security needs and fears of the two communities in Cyprus are not limited to hard security concerns, but also include those related to justice, functionality of the state, economic security, and gender security. 

This in fact, highlights the significance of the transitional period in safeguarding the sustainability of an overall settlement. The more self-confident the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities feel about transitional period arrangements, the more secure they will feel about the feasibility and the stability of the overall settlement.

 Addressing broader, non-traditional security requires endogenous resilience and internal security mechanisms that are built in the new federal state. 

In this way, the focus would be shifted away from zero-sum (win-lose) security narratives to common security needs. It is known that these narratives are fed from historical traumas and fears, whereas common security needs entail preventative measures that can yield more convergences between the two communities. Endogenous resilience should be built through effective and efficient public institutions that can foster civil loyalty and hence, ensure the sustainability of a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. 

* Prof. Dr. Ahmet Sözen is Director of Cyprus Policy Center and a faculty member in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, Northern Cyprus. This article is an abridged version of the original published in Turkish Policy Quarterly’s (TPQ) Winter 2017 issue.