A letter from ‘the son of Atilla’

A letter from ‘the son of Atilla’

Why are Greek Cypriots so offensive? Why do they attack and insult anyone who dares write something to their displeasure? Where is their tolerance to others’ opinions in the Greek Cypriot democracy? In so many letters, as well as in discussion groups, there were incredible accusations against me. Some went to the extreme of calling me “The son of Atilla, the barbarian” some had no intellect and preferred to just swear at me. In one letter, an angry “nationalist Greek Cypriot” suggested I should stop going to the Greek side of the island if I wanted to live for a few more years.

Why were they enraged? In Monday’s article, there was a short paragraph on a claim spoken frequently nowadays. I did not say I believed the claim. I did not try to refute it either. As long as either the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan come up with an explanation and either endorse or reject it, the claim remains as a speculative claim. That’s all. According to that unverified but much-speculated claim in a recent meeting, Akıncı “warned” Anastasiades that if no deal was reached by the end of the year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intends to annex northern Cyprus. 

I can definitely understand why Greek Cypriots do not like Russia’s Crimea example, or Turkey’s Hatay example in 1938, repeated in northern Cyprus. I personally hope such an option never unfolds in Turkey. It’s like a very bad joke. Yet if Greek Cypriots continue demanding the moon and the stars and want to drag their feet for another 50 years with “open-ended Cyprus talks” can anyone seriously rule out comfortably that northern Cyprus will never become a second Hatay?

Irrespective of whether Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades realizes it or not, the status quo in Cyprus must change. Greek Cypriots might be happy having the state, international recognition, EU membership and such. Turkish Cypriots are frustrated with being left out stateless, cut off from the international community of nations, being unable to even arrange a game with the clubs in Turkey’s football leagues; they are the outcasts of southeastern Mediterranean. Greek Cypriots might want to drag their feet for another decade or more and wait for Turkish Cypriots to surrender. They might believe if they wait long enough, they might acquire the entire island and make Turkish Cypriots patch up the Cyprus Republic as a peculiar minority.
Unfortunately they are wrong.

Most Turkish Cypriots would not like to be annexed by Turkey or to receive minority status in the Cyprus Republic. Yet, if these two options are put out for a vote, I am afraid most Turkish Cypriots will say “We are with Turkey.” Furthermore, what is the demographic situation of the population of northern Cyprus these days? How many of those 220,000 Turkish Cypriots that Akıncı reported to Anastasiades are Cyprus-born Turkish Cypriots, and how many of them are people from Turkey who made Cyprus their home? In the absence of accurate statistics, no one can have a definitive answer to such a question. Could it be an exaggeration if I say the situation appears to be 50-50?

Was Akıncı wrong when he said a settlement to the Cyprus problem had become more difficult compared to the time when Annan plan was negotiated 12 years ago? Would it have been easier to have a Cyprus deal tomorrow? Definitely not. Well than, shall we expect Turkish Cypriots to remain out in the cold forever?

Hundreds of reports with much speculation and a Cyprus map with four territorial adjustment options have been floating around since the two communal leaders, their spouses and negotiating teams came together at Mont Pelerin in Switzerland. These maps were all leaked by the Greek Cypriot delegation, and have not yet officially been given to the Turkish Cypriot side. None of those four maps might be acceptable for Turkish Cypriots because all of them were drawn with the assumption that since Turkish Cypriots were happy with the Annan plan while Greeks were against it, the new plan must appease Greek Cypriots so that they also vote “yes” this time. This is not a good approach and further undermines any prospect of a deal. Indeed, the mentality of the Greek Cypriot side appears to be the main obstacle to the entire process, as well as the romantic Mont Pelerin rendezvous. 

Not only did the Turkish Cypriot side made clear that discussions on a map might be possible only after a date for the international conference on the security aspect of the Cyprus problem is agreed on. Already, it has clearly stated that conditions have changed a lot since 2004 when the Annan Plan was put to a vote.

Particularly, Akıncı was clear in stressing that while Morphou (Güzelyurt) was among the towns to be handed back to Greek Cypriots in the Annan Plan, that has now become impossible. Another important problem is the guarantees and guarantor status of Turkey, Greece and Britain. Turkey’s continued guarantee is a must for Turkish Cypriots. Anastasiades has been saying that not a single Turkish soldier can stay in Cyprus after a settlement.

If the two sides’ stances on fundamental aspects are still so far from each other, can we still expect a Cyprus deal within the current format of the talks? Either these talks must be elevated to a level of negotiations between two countries wishing to form a federation between themselves, or perhaps they will need to go the Crimean way and put a painful stop to this more-than-half-century old bleeding wound of the Turkish Cypriots.