Cyprus federation hopes are dead
As long as the Greek Cypriots believe the island only belongs to them and the Turkish Cypriot people are a minority (that might be accorded a special status with some privileged rights), there can never be a bi-zonal or bi-communal federal settlement that the two sides have agreed to establish in principle back in 1977. We must confess it: The hope for a Cyprus federation died at Crans-Montana.
Cyprus talks were crushed at Crans-Montana not only because of differences over when and how Turkey would pull back its troops, but also over when the 1960 guarantee system would be terminated and replaced with a multinational one. From property to territory, power sharing, EU affairs and trade to the resettlement of a number of Greek Cypriots in the northern Turkish Cypriot territory, there were more than 150 serious contentious headings in all six chapters of the Cyprus negotiation process. Yet, should the Greek Cypriot-Greece side have developed a political will like the Turkish Cypriot-Turkey side, a settlement of compromise could have been within reach.
Agreeing to a rotational presidency, for example, was one condition the Turkish side succumbed to over all other Greek Cypriot demands, including the full withdrawal of troops within 18 months was not a position naturally conducive to a resolution. How could a Greek Cypriot leader refuse in all adamancy, in acknowledging the importance of a continued Turkish guarantee and military presence on the island for Turkish Cypriots? Particularly, a Greek leader who was the chairman of the party established by the former EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston) terrorists so much involved in attacks on Turkish Cypriots during the 1963-1974 period, Nikos Anastasiades himself must know well why Turkey intervened on the island in 1974 and why Turkish Cypriots could not say “yes” to any deal that did not include the guarantee system or Turkey’s military presence on the island.
However, for the first time ever, the Turkish side suggested a withdrawal of a big portion of Turkish military presence on day one, withdrawal of most troops within a program and a reconsideration of the guarantee system and its presence on the island in 15 years. Obviously, if in that 15-year period the two sides of the island develop confidence and a working relationship of mutual trust would there still have been a need for the guarantee system or for Turkey’s presence?
Anastasiades and his mentor, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias – who should perhaps be better-called the trouble making minister – did not want a deal hoping that the UN, Britain and the United States will spend their best efforts and within a short period, probably after the Greek Cypriot presidential vote in February next year, there will be a new call for talks.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” has been the fundamental principle of the Cyprus talks. Yet, all throughout the past decades, whatever move forward has been taken on either side, is recorded and transformed into some sort of benchmark to be used in talks held later. That is what Anastasiades has placed his bets on. The next round of talks would start from where the failed Crans Montana talks left off.
On March 29, 1986, during discussions over the Draft Framework Agreement then UN Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar and his team were negotiating with the two sides of the island, Rauf Denktaş, the founder of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, was told if he agreed to make a territorial adjustment declaration an agreement might be within reach in 24 hours. Denktaş did not believe it but he was under such intense pressure, including from Turkey, that he eventually made a verbal statement that would only be valid for 24 hours, agreeing to a territorial adjustment giving Turkish Cypriots “29 percent plus” of the territory of the island – almost seven percentage points less than currently held. That offer was incorporated with a “global exchange and compensation scheme” as a solution to the property aspect of the Cyprus problem. Furthermore, the guarantee system and Turkey’s unilateral intervention right were off limits during the talks.
What happened? At the last failed round of Cyprus talks, bargaining over territorial adjustments started from Denktaş’s “29 percent plus” statement. Mustafa Akıncı, the current president of Northern Cyprus, offered to take down the Turkish Cypriot territory to 29.2 percent and worse, for the first time ever since the 1968 start of intercommunal talks, presented a map to the Greek Cypriot side – presumably kept at a UN safe in Geneva – clearly showing the villages and towns he might agree to hand back to the Greek Cypriots.
Even worse, for the first time ever in decades since the Cyprus talks, Akıncı’s spokesman started with the statement, “The 1960 Guarantee System is not our taboo” and ended with Akıncı himself suggesting a full withdrawal of all Turkish troops, an end to the unilateral right to intervention and ending the guarantee system all together in a period of time if the two sides of Cyprus manage to develop confidence and trust.
As was stressed the night the Crans Montana talks ended in failure, he was suggesting a review of the whole guarantee system in 15 years’ time after a settlement and by that date the number of Turkish troops would have gone down to 650, in line with the provisions of the Treaty of Alliance.
Among many other trivial or important suggestions the Greek Cypriot leader, in the meantime, made a verbal commitment that provided the Turkish side an agreement to end the guarantee system, give up the right to unilateral intervention and approved full withdrawal of troops in an 18-month phase, he could agree to a rotational presidency and vice presidency with a ratio of two years Greek to one year Turkish, both elected with a common ballot and weighted voting (Turkish Cypriot vote having 20 percent impact on the outcome of the Greek candidate and vice versa).
This mentality of forcing the Turkish Cypriot side to retreat from all his positions step by step at every round of Cyprus talks is ill. Crans Montana must be the last, bare evidence that Greek Cypriots are not interested in a compromise deal at all. It is perhaps high time to consider some other alternatives headed by a negotiated divorce and two Cypriot states in the EU.