Another Christmas, different conditions

Another Christmas, different conditions

The Cyprus problem, as we have been talking about, started on a cold Christmas day, precisely on Dec. 21, 1963, with Greek Cypriot hordes attacking Turkish Cypriots with the intention of annihilating them all within 24 hours. This sad event, a product of the failed Akritas plan signed by “Commander Diegenis,” as was reported by the Greek Cypriot media a while later, was the “Bloody Christmas.” The 1963 and consequent attacks of the Greek Cypriot hordes failed to cleanse the island of the Turkish Cypriot element. Frustrated with pertinent failures, the colonels of Greece instigated a coup to oust the Makarios government and achieve Enosis, annexation of the island to Greece. The coup triggered the Turkish intervention that not only saved Turtkish Cypriots, but brought a swift end to the coup administration on the Greek Cypriot side, as well as that of the colonels of Athens.

Now it is again Christmas time. Different winds are blowing on the island. It is as if the long sought peace might be finally discernible. After three months of off and on negotiations, the Turkish Cypriot side gave their formal “yes” to a “compromise text” to be released after a leaders’ summit, if they ever come together, which is expected to usher a fast-track negotiations process for a quick fix to a half-century old Cyprus problem.

During a one-day trip to the island, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu used all his “persuasion capabilities” on President Derviş Eroğlu to accept “single sovereignty” of the federation that might be created on the island. Convening a meeting of party leaders in the presence of Davutoğlu veteran Eroğlu produced a rare national consensus policy, “The dissoluble federation to be established will have single sovereignty emanating equally from Turkish and Greek Cypriots…” That was of course a remarkable concession to the Greek Cypriot side, who were insisting so much on the “single sovereignty” issue while at the same time a lesson in democracy to Turkey… The president had mandate from Parliament; there was a government with a comfortable parliamentary majority, but still on an existential decision, the president deemed it necessary to consult and get consent from the opposition as well.

Of course, it is still too early to say the 2013 Christmas might fix the problem created in the 1963 Christmas as Greek Cypriots still have not made up their answer to the latest text sent to them through the United Nations. Secondly, even if they accept and President Nikos Anastasiades agrees to talks with President Eroğlu, if agreement on a statement to be released at the end of such a first meeting took three months, how long would it take to provide a resolution to the Cyprus problem?

Turkish Cypriot officials and Turkish Foreign Ministry friends appeared to be rather optimistic. Since in the three months of talks regarding the statement to be released after leaders’ summit many outstanding issues were indeed discussed and since (even though Greek Cypriots refuse to own now) there is a U.N. document summarizing convergences achieved during the past many years of talks, if both sides hold talks with political will finishing a deal and going to separate simultaneous referenda in March or April next year might be possible.

The U.N. special envoy Alexander Downer, who returned from the airport and cancelled his Christmas vacation, reportedly agreed to a meeting with Davutoğlu at the Turkish ambassador’s residence that this Christmas might indeed be a turning point for the building of Cyprus peace…Will it indeed? Will it be possible for Greek Cypriots to agree to share power with Turkish Cypriots; accept that Cyprus is common and equal house of two peoples?

*Moments after this article was penned, Greek Cypriot government spokesman Hristo Stilianidis disclosed their rejection of the talks, saying there was no need to start a process doomed to collapse. Greek Cypriots insist Turkish Cypriots should drop their demand for partnership in sovereignty of the island.