As Eroğlu travels to New York
For a long time, Turkish Cypriots have been stressing publicly as well as in closed-door meetings their demand for an accelerated pace to the Cyprus talks process. The Greek Cypriot side, however, has been doing whatever possible to spend as much time possible beating about the bush rather than discuss hard-core issues.
About two weeks ago, on the sidelines of an EU-Africa meeting in Brussels, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefly met with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades. That meeting came at a time when rumors were abundant that not only would the secretary-general undertake a personal initiative to speed up the Cyprus process together, but that the United States and United Kingdom would undertake serious backstage diplomacy to push the process to a quick fix within the year. Under the Cypriot sun, there is always abundant place for such “rumors,” but Cypriots without discrimination have proved over the past half-century their skill in adamancy.
The secretary-general also told reporters that it took almost a year after the election of Anastasiades to resume the Cyprus talks because “the Greek Cypriot community” was not ready for various reasons. That statement has been under fire in southern Cyprus since it was used. Why? Indeed the answer underscores why a Cyprus settlement has been long overdue: How can the secretary-general downgrade the U.N.-member Cypriot Republic to a community?
Greek Cypriot friends who have long been demanding in their piles of letters to this writer that instead of talking of Greek Cypriot disinterest in a settlement he should ask the Turkish side to agree to the return of Varosha or make some other territorial concessions to energize the process. However, the Cyprus problem is one of sharing the same homeland by two – yes one is smaller than the other – peoples, the relationship between which is not one of minority and majority but of two politically equal peoples. The Cyprus problem started with Greek Cypriots trying to usurp the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriot people – including their right to live – and has been continuing because of the intransigence to recognize the share of Turkish Cypriots in the sovereignty and administration of the island. The territorial aspect is of course important, but not the fundamental aspect of the Cyprus problem.
Now, after two weeks, Turkish Cypriot President Dr. Derviş Eroğlu left northern Cyprus Sunday morning for New York, where he will meet the secretary-general today. Eroğlu will be meeting the secretary-general with a demand for increased interest in the Cyprus talks. Over the past weeks, this writer had the opportunity to talk with Eroğlu, former President Mehmet Ali Talat, Foreign Minister Özdil Nami and scores of junior Turkish and Greek Cypriot officials. Turkish Cypriots are in rare unanimity in demanding a quick fix. They have political differences. A presidential election in April 2015 is looming on the horizon.
The probable candidates are not attacking each other for selling out, but demanding accelerated engagement. This is the first time such an atmosphere has existed on the northern third of the island while on the Greek side, there is the usual rhetoric and obsession that a settlement will downgrade them from a state to a community.
Can the secretary-general with American and British help convince Greek Cypriots to go beyond Varosha and engage in serious talks for a comprehensive settlement?