Hopes for the last chance in Cyprus

Hopes for the last chance in Cyprus

The presidents of the Greek and Turkish governments in Cyprus are expected to make a joint statement tomorrow, that is Feb. 11, to give another try for a lasting solution to the chronic problem on the divided island.

If the talks following the statement bear fruit, Cyprus which was separated in 1974, when Turkey militarily intervened in a right-wing Greek coup on the island that threatened Turks’ lives, could be reunited again. 

Additionally, if the reunification takes place on the basis of the political equality of Greeks and Turks in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federative framework, urging the withdrawal of Turkish troops there, it would be a breakthrough.

There was a chance for reunification in 2004, but it failed when Greeks said “no” to a U.N.-sponsored plan, through a referendum that was simultaneously carried out in both parts of Cyprus.

Ten years later, if the statement is read by Nicos Anastasiades and Derviş Eroğlu tomorrow as it has been drafted with the help of Turkey, Greece, the European Union and the United States, another U.N.-sponsored simultaneous referendum is being suggested.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on a live TV show on Feb. 9 that he was hopeful the plan would work this time. But if the Greek Cypriots veto it once again there will be no other option but to go for two separate states, Davutoğlu added. “This is the last chance” for reunification, he said.

That is in line with a recent International Crisis Group report, and American efforts have intensified over the last few weeks to convince the Greek Cypriot government.

The diplomacy for a solution in Cyprus was brought to life again with a visit of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Istanbul on March 4, 2013, where he discussed the issue at length with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey has been promoting the idea of having the talks with the inclusion of both Ankara and Athens. 

The release of a joint statement before the actual talks was the idea of Anastasiades. Complaining that they had lost months with this statement, Eroğlu urged his Greek counterpart on Feb. 9 to speed the process up. In the meantime, the Greek government has endorsed its domestic position with a new coalition composition.

If it works this time, a Cyprus reunification could change the political geography of its region in the following ways: 

1- A major border dispute in the strategically critical East Mediterranean region, also affecting the Middle East, will be solved.

2- The lifting of mutual embargoes and vetoes could give impetus to Turkish-EU relations.

3- It may also boost trade in the region, possibly enabling the transfer of Greek Cypriot gas resources to European markets with a pipeline through Turkey, and also helping the bankrupted Greek Cypriot economy. With a possible Turkish rapprochement with Israel on the horizon, there could also be a transportation path for Israeli gas.

4- It would also mark another achievement for the EU, which is the most successful peace and development project in history.

5- Turkish foreign policy would be able to use the energy it has been allocating for Cyprus in other fields, providing EU-guaranteed security to Turks on the island.

Thus, all parties should be careful in order not to miss this last chance for the reunification of the island.