Money talks; even the church in Greek Cyprus now wants a solution

Money talks; even the church in Greek Cyprus now wants a solution

I know quite a number of Turkish elites who, frustrated with developments in Turkey, decided to settle in Turkish Cyprus over the course of the last decade. 

Following the failure of the 2004 Annan plan, I had found this choice a bit odd, as pessimism reigned over Turkish Cyprus. 

Now those who settled in the north of the island must feel vindicated seeing the current state of affairs in Turkey, where the film is being rolled back to the 1990’s. 

While the Kurdish peace process in Turkey is in shambles, the peace process in Cyprus has picked up momentum, and this time going back to a 2004 outcome looks like a dim probability. 

“We first sat down to the table to do screening; then we started reaching a very speedy agreement on a lot of points,” a member of the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team told me. 

The unprecedented momentum that seems to surprise everybody both on and off the island is attributed to the “right constellation of stars.”

For the first time there is leadership on the relevant sides with the wish to work for a reunited Cyprus.

First came the change on the Greek Cypriot side. We don’t need to revisit the credentials of Nikos Anastasiades, who was an isolated political figure to lobby for a “yes” campaign in 2004. His election was the first sign of a change of mindset on the Greek Cypriots’ part. But his election victory came also as a result of the deep economic crisis which hit the south. In addition, Greece’s economic troubles seem to have multiplied the sufferings of the Greek Cypriots.

“Greek Cypriots played in 2004 what they thought to be their best hand. They thought things would get better after they entered the European Union. It did not. Now they are playing their second best hand,” a Turkish Cypriot familiar with the ongoing negotiations on the island told.

“When we used to approach the Greek side for cooperation, the business circles were unwilling, saying, ‘We have a state policy; let the politicians solve the issue first.’ Now that approach has changed,” said a Turkish Cypriot businessman. 

Even the church, which plays an important role in the south’s political life and had been a staunch critic of the Annan peace process in 2004, seems to have changed its attitude on the prospects of a settlement. After all, as is the case with Greece, the church in Greek Cyprus is said to be a big stakeholder in the economy!

The leadership change in the south was recently followed by a change in the leadership of the north. It is no surprise that with Mustafa Akıncı’s election in April, negotiations are back on track and progress is fast.

The fact the “no” camp on both sides have become anxious and started to voice criticism is also a testament that substantial progress is being made.

One needs to mention Athens and Ankara while talking about the right constellation of stars. Greece is busy with economic troubles while Ankara is busy with political troubles. That’s not helpful, although both sides on the island value the fact the whole process remains so far “Cypriot owned.” This is a sensitive point to take into account; if we are to learn from the lessons of the Annan process, the failure at that time was attributed to the fact Greek Cypriots were convinced it was a solution imposed by outsiders.  

Even if embroiled in their internal and (for Turkey) regional troubles, both capitals and even the Western powers need a “good story.” So one would only expect them to make their utmost contribution.