Back to talks on Cyprus

Back to talks on Cyprus

On the last day of March the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives will vote on a draft sponsored by the ruling Democratic Rally Party (DISI) to authorize the Education Ministry to decide on the days to be marked in secondary schools. The draft, which cleared the education committee last week, aims at leaving behind a controversy over a recent law that ordered the commemoration of a 1950 plebiscite on union with Greece (enosis) in schools. Because of that law, considered by Turkish Cypriots as a demonstration of hostility not conducive to the spirit of federation talks, negotiations between Greek and Turkish people on the island, which aimed at creating a federation on Cyprus, collapsed last month.

The education committee of the Greek Cypriot parliament approving the draft was seen in northern Cyprus as a “step in the right direction” and President Mustafa Akıncı heralded the development with appreciation saying, “It is a virtue to be able to take a step back from a wrong move.” Would the move be enough to resume the talks? It might be today or tomorrow, but definitely before the April 16 vote in Turkey, some hope would help transform Turkey into an autocracy, apparently there will be a statement heralding momentarily resumption of the Cyprus intercommunal talks. It is already claimed that Akıncı’s office has informed Espen Barth Eide, the special adviser to the United Nations’ Secretary General, that after the draft rendering obsolete the earlier enosis commemoration law becomes law on March 31, the Turkish Cypriot side may return to the talks.

Since the Greek Cypriot side has been stressing readiness from the first day of the collapse of the talks that it was ready to resume the talks, it might be assumed that a major crisis would be left in the past. Alas, that would not be the case. The crisis lived has eroded confidence of the Turkish Cypriot leader in the Greek Cypriot leader. The good chemistry between the two leaders was instrumental in overcoming many problems over the past 19 months of talks, or ever since Akıncı was elected president of the Turkish Cypriot state barely two years ago. Will Akıncı now continue the talks with his much criticized “empathy with the Greeks” style without demanding a similar approach from the Greek Cypriot president? So far, President Nikos Anastasiades and the entire Greek Cypriot establishment have been obsessed with staying away from any move that might be considered one way or the other as a development consolidating with the Turkish Cypriot state.

For example, the latest legislation was undertaken by the DISI in consultation with Akıncı and his aides. Since the aim was to eradicate Turkish Cypriot concerns because of the earlier Enosis legislation, to which DISI extended a shy and indirect support, DISI leader Averof Neophytou said it was extremely normal for the DISI leader to meet with Akıncı, have dinner with him and explain how a correction to the mistake would be made. Yet, Neophytou attending a dinner at Akıncı’s official presidential office landed him in a very serious barrage of accusations that he helped consolidation to the Turkish Cypriot state.

With such an obsessive mentality, could it ever be possible to reach a federal resolution based on the political equality of the two people and as Akıncı has been stressing “with freedom, political equality and security” of Turkish Cypriots safeguarded?

According to people with insight on the diplomatic developments on the island, Akıncı has already passed on a note to Anastasiades through Eide that once talks resumed, there would be a two-month deadline for the completion of the process. That is, unlike the Greek Cypriot “open ended talks” expectation, Akıncı told Eide that since everything was discussed and what’s left is a big give-and-take to finish off the federation talks, the Turkish Cypriot side was ready for an accelerated process. But, if no deal was possible within the next two months, the two sides should walk their separate ways and the U.N. official should concede failure of the goodwill mission entrusted on the Secretary-General by the U.N. Security Council.