Loss of hope for a solution in Cyprus to determine fate of talks

Loss of hope for a solution in Cyprus to determine fate of talks

Almost three weeks after the Jan. 7 parliamentary elections in Turkish Cyprus, four parties are set to start coalition talks to form a government, leaving out the incumbent National Unity Party (UBP), which got most of the votes: 36.5 percent. While the UBP increased its votes by more than 10 percent since the 2013 elections, it came short of having the necessary majority to remain in power.

Ironically, the Republican Turks’ Party (CTP), which came second in elections yet also became the party which has suffered the biggest setback by losing 16 percent of the votes it won in 2013 might end up leading the government. The Democrat Party (DP), which also suffered a serious setback (15 percent loss compared to 2013), will also be in the four-party coalition talks, as well as the newly-established People’s Party (HP) and President Mustafa Akıncı’s Communal Democracy Party (TDP).

Former negotiator Kudret Özersay’s HP did relatively well in its first test of elections, winning 17 percent of the votes and becoming the third biggest party in parliament.

The newly-established New Birth Party (YDP) supported mainly by Turks with mainland backgrounds also entered parliament, passing the five percent threshold by just one percent.

An unlikely coalition

Prime Minister Hüseyin Özgörgün, of the UBP and who resigned Jan. 19, has never been on the same page as Akıncı in the peace talks. The UBP-DP coalition only halfheartedly supported the negotiations, as both parties were never convinced that the Greek Cypriots would accept a federal solution that would be equally accepted by Turkish Cypriots, which would for instance insist on the continuation of Turkey’s guarantees even if with some changes.

Similarly, Professor Kudret Özersay of HP, who has worked as a negotiator for three different presidents including the late Rauf Denktaş, has been critical of the negotiation positions endorsed by Akıncı.

While the UBP increased its votes and the HP came third in the elections, the CTP, which one could call as the most committed to a federal solution, has suffered the biggest loss in its history.

That clearly shows that Turkish Cypriots have lost hope for a permanent settlement. Peace talks with the Greek Cypriots collapsed last year and it seems the Turkish Cypriots are not holding their government and leadership responsible for the failure, but instead Greek Cypriots. If they had thought there was a reliable interlocutor, voters would have given a new mandate to negotiate to a political party. But in the end they did not do so.

Currently, the only thing that brings together the four parties that will start the coalition talks are their common reaction to the corruption claims regarding the UBP and Özgörgün.

It will prove quite challenging for these four parties to find a common ground for the future of the peace talks.

Following the elections in Greek Cyprus, efforts to revive peace talks will start, but it’s impossible for talks to take off from where it was left. Greek Cypriots have staunchly been supporting “no guarantee, no Turkish soldiers.” That’s a nonstarter for Turkish Cypriots. Akıncı, on the other hand, does not want to start open-ended talks and wants to have the Turkish Cypriots’ status clarified in advance in the event of a new failure. That happens to be a nonstarter for Greek Cypriots.

And this will mean protracted talks just to agree on the conditions of the new round of negotiations, which would further expand the need to look for alternatives for a settlement.

Barçın Yinanç, hdn, Opinion,