A new methodology for Cyprus

A new methodology for Cyprus

Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has apparently woken up from wild dreams that there could be a Cyprus resolution within few months or within a year or two “unless the methodology of the talks changed.”

 Emerging from a frustrating meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, Akıncı could not hide his disappointment and quipped that if the talks continued in the current format as has been held for the past almost half century, the meetings of the two leaders would not be able to go further than a repeat of conveying their respective positions on the subject of discussion.

Akıncı was right when he said, like his predecessors Derviş Eroğlu, Mehmet Ali Talat and Rauf Denktaş, that no stone has been left unturned in the half century-old Cyprus talks. The two sides knew well each other’s position on every detail. If a settlement is desired, it must be possible to achieve eventually if there is a political will.

In his famous “Art of War,” a book on military strategy, Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) states, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.” After almost 23 months of talks, it is great to see Akıncı realize what, for example, former President Talat could not see in five years: Without establishing the political equality of the two sides, talks on a federation cannot succeed.

Indeed, it is rather promising that Akıncı realized “It will be extremely difficult to reach a Cyprus settlement if talks continued in the current framework.” What is the framework Akıncı complained about? If one side believed he represented the “Republic of Cyprus” and he would not discuss the sovereignty of the republic with anyone or would not share its administration with anyone and considered the other side as a minority demanding some “additional rights,” can such talks lead to federation?

If one leader, for the sake of reaching a sustainable resolution, puts aside the interests of his own people, concentrates on formulas that might make the other people embrace the talks and undertake such concessions that might render his own people a minority, such an approach cannot be described as “empathy politics” but rather as sheer surrender. It was good that Akıncı at least realized now that he was expected to defend the interests of the Turkish Cypriot people and stop hallucinating that Anastasiades sincerely wanted a settlement based on bitter mutual compromises.

Why would Anastasiades or any other Greek Cypriot leader compromise if Greek Cypriots are the sole owners of the land and possess the “sole legitimate government” of the entire island? Particularly, if amid defeatist empathy politics, the Turkish Cypriot leader talks about a settlement that would satisfy Greek Cypriot worries and expectations, why would Anastasiades compromise?

Can it be normal for any sober mind to continue the talks on a federation if the side recognized by the international community as the “sole legitimate government” insists it will not discuss matters related to the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus? If, for example, the two leaders are discussing a federation and if they have already reached an understanding that all natural resources, including those offshore, will be within the federal remit and if the two leaders have agreed to a moratorium on hydrocarbon activity off the island, what purpose does it serve to invite tenders and sign contracts with international companies? Right, tit-for-tat politics worked. The Greeks staged a fait accompli, resumed hydrocarbon exploration and drilling in the disputed Exclusive Economic Zone and the Turkish company that holds similar rights for the Turkish Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone is ordered to go to the region. What will happen? Did we not see this dreadful film just a few years ago? Even Talat is now saying that nothing can come out of the Cyprus talks and that a chance was missed after the two leaders exhausted their mutual trust. What an accurate assessment…

Akıncı is right that there is a need for a new methodology for the Cyprus talks. Indeed, as the late Rauf Denktaş said, without the Turkish Cypriot state being given the same political reception accorded to the Greek Cypriot government, talking about a federation on Cyprus is just a waste of time. If, however, the world concedes the reality that there are two politically equal Cypriot states, those two states establishing a federation or engaging in a federal affair within the EU will require no one to use a magic wand.