An opportunity emerges in Cyprus

An opportunity emerges in Cyprus

The Cyprus issue has not been on the agenda for a long time. There are several reasons for this: “Hot” regional crises, predominantly Syria, have been dominating Turkish foreign policy for a while. Besides, there has not been a significant development in Cyprus since the negotiations were deadlocked in January 2012. 

Now, there seems to be a movement. A sign of this came from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who met with the new foreign minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) in Ankara, Özdil Nami the other day. 

According to the minister’s statement, talks will restart on Nov. 4. Until that date, representatives of both sides will determine the new framework, method and other details of the talks. It is envisioned that the new negotiation process will end in March 2014 and that a referendum will be held on the draft agreement that has come out. At least, this is the Turkish side’s wish and expectation…

Meanwhile, an important innovation is being added to the new process. Negotiators of the KKTC and the Greek administration will come to Ankara and Athens to make contacts. This will be a “first.” Thus, with Turkey’s and Greece’s active participations, the road to the continuation of the talks in a four-party way will be open… 

‘Window of opportunity’ 

Davutoğlu defined it as a “window of opportunity” for a solution that a new negotiation process is starting in Cyprus. 

However, it is hard to know in advance whether or not the process will develop in the direction of the optimistic picture the minister has drawn. 

It is not known yet to what extent consensus has been reached on the details of the process Davutoğlu has announced, such as the calendar, referendum and the four-party formula. No concrete confirmation came on this matter yet from the Greek side. 

Besides, there isn’t any sign about how much the sides, after sitting at the table, are ready and determined to change their ossified stances on several aspects of the Cyprus issue. This question immediately comes to mind: Is there a new reason or motivation that would force the sides to think differently and agree on “unification,” the same sides that have gotten used to deadlock and have considered it as the “lesser evil”? 

If reviewed with commonsense and restraint, several reasons could be found. The extension of the issue has harmed both of the communities on the island. Also, this situation has negatively affected both “homelands.” Davutoğlu also mentioned, in his statement the other day, the drawbacks of the continuation of the deadlock. 

However, it seems to us that the opinion which rules that this new negotiation process will be the “last” is gaining strength on the Turkish side. If there is no agreement this time also, there are many who think the best way to end this deadlock would be to officialize the independence of the KKTC.
Also, the foreign minister of KKTC, Özdil Nami, in his speech in Ankara, pointed to the necessity, in this case, for the KKTC to be “integrated into the world.” 

No doubt the government has such a plan B. But, again, it is giving a (maybe a “last”) opportunity to talks aimed at a consensus. 

Sami Kohen is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on Oct. 11. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.