Cyprus déjà vu

Cyprus déjà vu

Those following the Cyprus problem closely lament that developments indicate some sort of a déjà vu, a repeat of what was wanted to be staged seven years ago. At the time Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat was in the last days of his presidency. He was very much aware that Greek Cypriot counterpart Demetris Christofias had no intention of walking to a painful compromise deal. He wanted to score some progress in at least one key area of the Cyprus intercommunal talks conundrum.

The two socialist compatriots started discussing a mechanism which in effect would guarantee the left remain in power forever in both parts of Cyprus should there be a federal resolution. The idea was simple. In exchange for a rotating presidency between the two peoples of the island, there would have a “cross vote” right. Accordingly, Turkish Cypriots would vote for the Greek Cypriot presidential candidate and Greek Cypriots vote for the Turkish one. In the election of the Greek leader the Turkish vote would have 20 percent impact, and likewise the Greek Cypriot vote would have a determining 20 percent share in the election of the Turkish leader. Thus, whoever becomes president under the rotating presidency, the other community would have voted for that particular president also.

Naturally, the move was the first step of a new nation creation exercise. If there could be presidential cross voting, tomorrow Greeks would seek the same application in parliamentary elections the next day in chamber elections and thus all Turkish Cypriot institutions would become Cypriot institutions. That was the cunning idea behind the move.

Talat denied such a deal was under consideration when this writer wrote about it at the time. The issue became a very hot potato for some time but since the genie was out of the bottle, after a meeting in Ankara during which the offer was sugar-coated with some creative ideas and became a 14-article package, Talat officially placed it on the negotiations table.

Forget about accepting the original idea of a rotating presidency – indeed he suggested cross voting in exchange for that – Christofias immediately declared he accepted cross voting, but would not agree to the rest of the package. Thus with a clever tweezing act he took out the cross voting article and sent the rest down the drain… Since then Greek Cypriots continue refusing the rotating presidency but treat cross voting as a gain in the pocket.

In the absence of the intention to engage in a bitter compromise deal, talking about territory and starting a discussion on the 1960 guarantee scheme on a platform not participated in by the three guarantor powers – Britain, Turkey and Greece – could not be described by anyone as a clever move in view of the bad track record of unfulfilled promises by the Greek Cypriots. Before formal discussions on a subject commenced, if a negotiating party puts on the table its position on the issue and outlines up to where he could probably compromise, there must be a problem of some degree. No one can explain such an attitude as a move in earnest to prod the other party to be forthcoming in the bargain session. Goodwill and honesty are two words that very rarely visit the Greek Cypriot mentality obsessed with getting rid of the Turkish Cypriot element at the least cost.

If the Turkish Cypriot president starts talking about a guarantee scheme – for some awkward reason he so far never ever used the words “effective and factual” of the guarantee scheme – different than the current one, there is a problem. Greek Cypriots don’t want the current system to continue. They say there should not be even one Turkish soldier left on the island. There are three guarantor countries. Britain has its own two sovereign bases and cares less about whether any troops stay on the island as part of the guarantee system or not. The second guarantor Greece, the country that instigated all the trouble with its desire to annex Cyprus and which orchestrated the 1974 coup for that reason, has bilateral agreements with Greek Cypriots. It has thousands of military advisors present in the Greek side. It would not bother of course with the dissolution of the guarantee scheme. Turkish Cypriots, though they hate to be classified as a minority, are the numerically smaller group of inhabitants on the island. Recent history demonstrated in all clarity that in the absence of Turkey’s effective – meaning the right to intervene – and factual – meaning boots on the ground – guarantor status, they could be hunted once again by greedy Greek Cypriot thugs. “Times have changed” or “now we have the EU” and other such excuses cannot soothe the worries produced by the recent – and current – outstanding performance of the Greek hordes.

Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and his friends are hoping that by being so generous at the talks they could convince Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades to agree to a tripartite meeting in New York that will carry the process to a Burgenstock-like international conference – something like the process carried out at the last stage of the 2004 Annan plan – within weeks of when the final verdict of the fate of the process will be delivered.

Anastasiades, however, is not aiming at a resolution. He wants to go to the next presidential election race with an argument that he did not take an inch back from statehood and sovereignty but advanced the Greek Cypriot positions in all spheres and brought the struggle a step closer to the eventual target; establishing Greek Cypriot control all over the island.

Whatever suggested, whatever compromises are made in good faith during these meetings, however, will constitute the basis of the next round of discussions and Turkish Cypriots will be asked to offer more.