Cyprus deal: Not now or never?

Cyprus deal: Not now or never?

The four-page document that Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades gave to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a meeting at Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum underlined once again how delusional it might be to expect a quick Cyprus fix.

The expectation that there will be a Cyprus settlement this spring or summer, if not by September or so, is not rational or realistic. The May parliamentary elections in Greek Cyprus are naturally a handicap to settlement efforts, but that’s not the main problem. The Cyprus problem is as far from a solution now as it has been for the past 50 years for the same fundamental reason.

What’s the reason? Indeed, the four-page report that was leaked to the media vividly outlined once again how perilous the Greek Cypriot mental obsession has been. The Cyprus problem started – in its latest form – in Christmas 1963 with the wild delusion that the Turkish Cypriot impediment to union with Greece (Enosis) could be “exterminated” within 24 hours, before Turkey might undertake any military or diplomatic move. Could union with Greece be in the cards in today’s political reality? That question has become irrelevant. Exterminating the Turkish Cypriot people through a paramilitary or military offensive has become irrelevant, or at least unthinkable today. Yet, the obsession is still there: Cyprus is a Greek land, the Turks on the island are a minority and a remnant of the Turkish invasion. When was that invasion? Are Greeks talking about the 1974 Turkish operation to stop the annihilation of the Turkish Cypriot people by a Greek-engineered coup via Greek Cypriot fascists? No… They are talking about the Turkish conquest of Cyprus some 500 years ago. What a fantasy!

The island is theirs. Turks are remnants of an invasion that occurred 500 years ago. They can, at best, be a “favored minority” with some more “added rights” than other minorities and live happily on the “Greek land.” For the obsessive Greek Cypriot political perspective, the 1960 partnership state giving Turkish Cypriots partnership status in the sovereignty and governance of the island was a “force majeur requirement of the time.” Thus, for the Greek Cypriots, it was perfectly normal to try to eradicate that “anomaly” two years later with a constitutional amendment stripping the “political equality” rights of the “minority Turks.” The famous 13-point amendment proposal and the Turkish Cypriot rejection of it shaped the intermittent, 1963-1974 genocidal campaign against the Turkish Cypriot people that ended with the 1974 Turkish intervention.

Now, the two leaders, but particularly the Turkish Cypriot Mustafa Akıncı and his negotiating team, have been building expectations that it is as if a resolution is just around the corner. Well, I very much would like that, but no one should forget that great expectations might land everyone in great frustration.

What was in the bags of the chief negotiators of the two sides who traveled to Brussels to “negotiate” how the Turkish “entity” of the future federation could conform to the acquis communitaire? Such a trip itself was demonstrative that the two sides have started working on the “day after” of a resolution. But, people with insight of the process underline that despite the atmosphere of optimism created, and though considerable headway indeed has been achieved under many of the outstanding headings including property, the convergences achieved so far do not merit such an expectation.

“Emerging from that Lebanese hotel back in 1968, the late Rauf Denktaş and late Glafcos Klerides stressed that a resolution would be reached soon… We are now as close to a settlement as the two believed in 1968,” said a key Greek Cypriot source with insight of the talks. The two sides still do not have convergence regarding the definition of a federation, how a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation and a resolution on the basis of individual rights can be reconciled, or how Turkish Cypriots could have “outstanding majority of land and population” in the northern Turkish Cypriot state of the federation, even as all the people of the island would have the unhindered right to own property, settle and do business…

Particularly on the property, territory and the guarantees issues, the two sides, despite all claims of progress, are nowhere near making a deal. The guarantees issue, for example, was not officially discussed between the two sides but the starting point of Greek Cypriots – which has already been revealed – is known to be that no third country should have troops on Cyprus and that no third country should have the right to unilateral intervention in Cyprus. Akıncı has been rather tight-lipped on the issue, as his people say a deal would not collapse over the guarantees issue, but Turkish Cypriots will not accept an end to Turkey’s guarantor status for reasons Greek Cypriots should understand well. Property and territory issues are even more complicated. 

Thus, if a Cyprus deal is desired, there ought to be a change in approach. Turkey’s 1974 intervention, military presence, settlers and changing demography are not the causes of the problem, they are just the byproducts… The cause of the problem is Greek Cypriot greed that they own the entire island. Unless they agree that there is another community with equal communal rights and that a new state must be a partnership of these two equal communities in terms of territory, sovereignty and governance of the island, a deal could not be reached even if a Greek Cypriot were elected president of the Turkish Cypriot state – to say nothing of the pro-settlement Akıncı. The latest exercise at least should make that all the more visible.