As Crans Montana gets underway

As Crans Montana gets underway

Early this morning, the leaders of the two peoples of Cyprus and representatives of the three guarantor powers - Turkey, Greece and Britain - will come together for the last effort to try to forge a federal resolution for the Cyprus problem in accordance with the 1977 and 1979 high level agreements. The presence of the Turkish, Greek and British foreign ministers, as well as the observer EU’s Frans Timmermans and Federica Mogherini might help increase expectations, but the prospects of success are rather dim.

According to pundits from both sides of the Cyprus division as well as many Cyprus watchers all around the globe, this might be the last effort for a federal resolution. What if it failed, what will be the likely outcome? Will the world forget about imposing a “marriage of convenience” for the two Cypriot communities that have earnestly been insisting for the past more than half century to not come together? Could this exercise indeed be the last effort to establish a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation on Cyprus? Or, as it has become the fashion, will we see a rehash of the same failed experiment in five to 10 years’ time with some fresh hopes? Can the two people of Cyprus get a velvet divorce, a separation on the basis of mutually agreed terms, producing two Cypriot states within the European Union?

Indeed, two Cypriot states within the EU might be a far better and sustainable settlement on Cyprus than a federation established under duress by the international community. Apart from giving the island two seats in the EU council, what might be the difference in establishing a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation with two working sub-democracies, two ethnicities and two languages and that of establishing two separate Cypriot states under the EU umbrella? With territorial adjustments, an adequate compensation scheme, but allowing the full application to EU acquis communautaire; obviously without any derogation but with no pre-settlement or retrospective application, a sui-generis, but a perfectly and harmoniously working settlement, contributing to the advancement of Turkish-Greek relations might be produced. Under such a deal, Greek Cypriots would not need to be obsessed with the continued presence of the Turkish military, or the guarantor status of Turkey. Turkish Cypriots would not need to be obsessed that Greek Cypriots might try to annihilate the Turkish presence on the island one night again. Such an attempt would mean launching war on a neighboring country, and Greek Cypriots would not be able to tell the world as they did in the 1960s that operations on Turkish Cypriots was aimed at reestablishing firm government control over some rebel elements.

According to a Turkish minister, this latest round of the Crans Montana conference was indeed nothing but a process everyone believed has no chance of success but still attending due to a demand by the United Nations Secretary-General. “We all know that there is no prospect of success but are still going to Crans Montana because the secretary-general wanted so,” the minister reportedly said. Was he wrong? Unfortunately no, as this writer has in a previous article listed the very reasons why failure has become unescapable.

If the sine quo non of a settlement for either side is indeed the “definitely unacceptable” elements of the other, could it be possible to achieve any sort of a rapprochement? If, for example, Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades still believed that an accord should allow no Turkish troops and no Turkish guarantee, even the empathy champion Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı might say “Yes” to that. Forget it, even if Akıncı under duress or because of some other motivation might feel compelled to say “Yes,” would the Turkish Cypriot people agree to such a deal at a referendum? Similarly, if Anastasiades, under duress, agreed for the continuation of Turkish guarantee and reduced the number of Turkish troops to stay in the post-settlement Cyprus, would Greek Cypriots agree to such a deal and endorse it at a referendum?

Thus, Crans Montana’s success, rather than its failure, will be the real surprise. The success of this process would largely depend on the performance of the Greek Cypriot side and the subsequent public diplomacy to sell the outcome to the two people of the island. Since Greek Cypriot leadership is not expected to make any concession without reciprocal move from the Turkish side – and vice versa – how are the two people going to be convinced of such concessions?

Yet, the performance of the Greek Cypriot-Greek duo over the past two-year period – even if we fool ourselves and forget and forgive their intransigent performance of the past half century – will be the determining factor, if not for overall success, at least for the duration of the conference.

Can we buy the argument that with or without success, nothing will be the same after Crans Montana? I have difficulty believing it, but from west to east, Cypriots to non-Cypriots, everyone says so for now… Tomorrow? Let’s wait and see.