Anastasiades is killing Akıncı’s prospects
Would an endorsement by his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Anastasiades, help Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı get reelected for a second term on Oct. 11? If that was what Anastasiades aimed at in indulging in the domestic political affairs of Turkish Cypriots, he probably did not calculate the possibility that it would backfire.
In a video interview with Politico magazine last week Anastasiades was rather slack in his choice of words. If Akıncı was reelected as Turkish Cypriot leader, he said, then Cyprus talks that collapsed in July 2017 because of his stubbornness could “definitely resume.”
At a time when Akıncı has been under attack from conservatives and nationalists for compromising on almost all of Turkish Cyprus’ red lines, ranging from territory to the continued presence of the Turkish military and Ankara’s guarantor status, the endorsement from Anastasiades might be the kiss of death to Akıncı’s reelection hopes.
Anastasiades and Akıncı agreed a while ago to reopen some of the crossing points between the two sides starting June 8. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still running strong in Greek Cypriot-ruled southern Cyprus – at the same time as there have not been any news cases in the north for the past 50 days – the Turkish Cypriot government bluntly rejected the accord between Anastasiades and Akıncı and declared last week that the border might reopen if and only when Greek Cypriots report no new case for at least 14 days. The Turkish Cypriot health minister further asserted that the borders might be opened with tighter controls on July 1.
Anastasiades agreed that when they were opened, there would be tighter controls at the crossings. In the past, the
Turkish Cypriot side recorded those who entered and exited the north while Greek Cyprus, refusing to accept the crossings as border gates since it insists that it is the government of the entire island, adamantly rejected any registration, apart from recording Turkish Cypriot traffic with ID checks. Now, Anastasiades has said that when the gates reopen, all crossing will be recorded.
Now, Greek Cypriot firefighter planes and helicopters have been helping in the fight against forest fires – apparently products of a systematic arson – in Turkish Cyprus for the first time ever, but even so, there appears to be little hope of a change in Cyprus’ peacemaking climate – even if Akıncı wins again.
On the contrary, since the 2017 collapse of the talks despite Akıncı’s generous compromises that made him a target for nationalists and conservatives and strained his already-bad relations with Ankara, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Turkey, for example, has changed its position in the eastern Mediterranean. Rather than yelling at Greek Cypriots every other day that they should respect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots and halt the unilateral exploration of hydrocarbon riches around the island, Turkey has started its own exploration activities, both in areas it considers part of its continental shelf and in the Turkish Cypriot exclusive economic zone.
Could Ankara change its stance and agree to Anastasiades’ offer to recognize Greek Cypriot unilateral sovereignty, compromising Turkish Cypriot rights? For what? Just so that an escrow account can be opened for the Turkish Cypriot people with payments to be determined not on the basis of their partnership in the island but on population?
Furthermore, the generous Anastasiades said he could even agree to Turkish Cypriots withdrawing from that account.
Ankara should stop all hydrocarbon activities around Cyprus, Anastasiades said, warning otherwise that European Union must consider completely ending Turkey’s membership process.
Was it wise to make such a remark? After all, Anastasiades not only has a high temper problem, but also has a habit of starting the day with some strong booze.