Is it realistic to foresee a reunited Cyprus?
Two communal leaders of Cyprus, Ersin Tatar and Nicos Anastasiades, along with the foreign minister of three guarantor countries - Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom - will come together at a U.N.-sponsored meeting in Geneva on April 28 and 29.
To put it straight, expectations of a breakthrough are low. One of the key reasons for that is the fact that Turks and Greeks on the island have completely become disconnected and unwilling to share the future. Plus, two historic opportunities for the reunification of the island were thrown away in 2004 and 2017 because of the Greek Cypriots.
So, let’s give an ear to former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who was interviewed by Deniz Kilislioğlu, a prominent journalist from private broadcaster NTV, just a day before the Geneva talks. Straw had served as the foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, thus a very important witness of how the Annan Plan was collapsed by the Greek Cypriot authorities.
“When I began as foreign secretary 20 years ago, looking at the file for the first time, I thought it was evenly balanced between two sides. But the more I was involved in the discussions for the future of Cyprus, the more I came to realize the Greek Cypriots have absolutely no interest in moving to a bizonal, bicommunal system,” Straw said.
He explains that Greek Cyprus had no appetite for a solution after tricking their way to the EU thanks to the Greek and French sponsorship. “A bizonal, bicommunal [solution] means you have to share power,” he adds, stressing no Greek Cypriot leader could take such a move.
So, what to do?
The former British top diplomat underlines the need for respecting the realities which would end up by the creation of two independent entities on the island. “Sometimes when you got a serious community divide, the only solution is to put those separate people in separate places. So it happened across the world, it happened in the U.K.,” he recalls.
This round of negotiations in Geneva, four years after the Crans-Montana talks, is surely deemed to be historic. Turkish Cyprus has declared that it will no longer discuss a bizonal, bicommunal federation but a two-state solution with their Greek neighbors. The president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has long been emphasizing the concept of “equal sovereignty” as the main characteristic of a solution on the island.
Ankara is also on the same page with Tatar, making clear that it will not tolerate any delaying tactics by Greece and the Greek Cypriots who have no will to share anything with the Turkish Cypriots. Greek Cyprus and Greece stick to the U.N. parameters for a federal solution, but it must be hard for them to explain why they rejected the Annan Plan and the formula tabled in 2017 at Crans-Montana, although both of them were suggesting a federal model.
The U.K.’s position will be crucial, too. According to a statement by the British Foreign Office, Secretary Dominick Raab said, “Tomorrow’s talks offer an opportunity to restart negotiations aimed at delivering a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue, and we hope that all parties approach them with creativity and flexibility.” He was repeating the same lines he made during his trip to the island in February.
His emphasis on the need for creativity and flexibility is a direct call to both sides for a compromise. The British Foreign Office’s statement informs that Raab “will underline the potential of a reunited Cyprus, which includes greater opportunities on trade, investment and tourism, as well as bolstering security and stability in the region.”
This statement is in line with London’s view that whatever the solution might look like, Cyprus should have a single international representation.
Accordingly, reports suggest that Raab will try to narrow the differences between the two rivals by proposing the establishment of two community states on the island.
These two community states will enjoy the utmost independence in running their respective zones but will have a single international identity, reports argue. It looks like a confederal model, but, of course, it is very vague to comment on and analyze its difference from the earlier models that suggested the creation of two constituent states.
Given this complicated picture and differences between the two sides, it will be important to see how the Geneva talks will result. One thing is pretty sure: It’s been a long time that a half-century-old U.N. parameters suggesting the reunification of the island have outdated. It’s really a time to be “creative and flexible” if all the parties are interested in a genuine effort to solve the Cyprus problem.