Countdown to Geneva

Countdown to Geneva

The date is approaching, and the curiosity is growing. How far can Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots’ side “retreat” in Geneva? What concessions can they make? Where are the red lines? Who can advise President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the best to change his mind, convince him to take some further bolder openings and walk the extra mile in Cyprus?

Diplomats from different countries dealing with the Cyprus issue in some way, whether they are the ones who are aware of what great prospects and opportunities a solution in Cyprus might open, or are the ones who pretend as if they want to do something about the issue, though are pretty much aware that they have little to contribute without changing their perspective or have interest limited to appease some groups back at home, are all trying to find answers to such questions.

Just a few days left to the April 27-29 informal 5+1 Cyprus conference in Geneva. It will pass quickly. Will there be any result? Turkish authorities have no vision that there might be a breakthrough. What does the Turkish Cypriots leadership say? There’s no expectation there either. The Greek Cypriots remain as adamant as ever, still stressing that they will negotiate only a federal resolution and nothing else.

It’s like a math equation. Irrespective of whether the available data is collected, extracted, or even multiplied, the result is always the same. It is very much like a zero-sum game – a game with zero totals. Does it matter if you’ve collected or multiplied? If there is zero on both sides of the equation, there can be no different end result than a zero.

“The positions of the parties are so clear and different that how will there be a compromise? The Greek leader proposes a solution with federal elements, saying he wants a federation, but he talks of a unitary state with some federal components, that gives minority rights to the Turkish Cypriot people and rendering meaningless the principles of political equality and effective participation in the administration. The Turkish side is becoming increasingly clear about a two-state solution. Turkey’s National Security Council has taken a decision on the issue. How many times has President Erdoğan said a two-state resolution is the only way? President Ersin Tatar agrees. How will the compromise be reached?”

Can someone bend the ankles, force compromise? That’s a good question, but the answer isn’t very good. The de facto “detente” in the eastern Mediterranean was built on Germany’s efforts to suspend Turkey’s hydrocarbon work, and the European Union postpone sanctions wanted to be imposed on Turkey. It’s not permanent. Can Turkey accept that a small island of 8 square kilometers, 2 kilometers from its coast, will confine itself to the Antalya bay? Or can the Turkish exclusive economic area be limited only to the Antalya bay and Greece, 600 kilometers away, and make the eastern Mediterranean a “Greek lake”? This “cold peace” is unsustainable.

These are red lines. President Erdoğan alone cannot eliminate these red lines or compromise on them, nor can anyone convince him to take such suicidal steps.

There are steps and ways to go in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot leadership and the Turkish Cypriots so-called “progressive” flank, victims of Stockholm Syndrome, should understand that there can be no unitary state model reinforced with some federal elements in the name of a federal solution. Not only it is a dead-end road, but such an approach is also a non-starter. There are only a few options to achieve a resolution; they are all based on the two-state reality.

The first option is to have a two-state confederation; symbolic central authority, strong constituent states, international one identity and two domestic identities. The second option is to have two states within the EU; a de facto federation. Although there will be two states on the island, in essence, the island will be de facto reunited as the entire population will enjoy the freedom of movement, to own property, settle and built business unhindered. The Turkish military will remain only in the northern state, and the guarantee agreement will only cover the north, but the security dimension will be granted to Turkey in the form of giving it EU-member-like rights limited to Cyprus. The third option is to have a full-fledged two-state solution.

And one last possibility is to maintain the current situation and focus on economic cooperation, confidence-building efforts, and to create mutual economic interest systems for the two sides on the island, Greece and Turkey. Mutual interest can manage to converge, to understand each other, and to break down psychological walls.

Of course, in the meantime, we can race for patronage over a movie, who’s more patriotic, who’s loyal to the cause, and so on, and we can kill time. What’s the time? Then I thought I’d remind you not to regret it again a while later...

COVID-19, Yusuf Kanlı,