Cyprus guarantee system is complicated
There are many aspects of the Cyprus problem. It is neither just a property or refugee is-sue, nor a territory matter. It definitely includes all such headings, as well as the partnership of the two peoples in the land and the sovereignty of the island. But, even if there is an ac-cord answering the expectations of the two peoples on all those headings, will the problem be resolved? Unfortunately not.
Besides the “internal” one, there is an “external” balance issue that needs to be addressed as well.
Irrespective of whether Cypriots of all ethnicities may like it or not, Cyprus is unfor-tunately not important just for Cypriots; it has a security dimension that concerns many other countries. Why does Britain still retain two “sovereign” bases on the eastern Mediter-ranean island even though it ended its colonial administration there in 1960? Why does Russia every now and then demand Greek Cypriots grant it military base rights similar to those of the British? Which bases on which Mediterranean island were most used in the Ar-ab Spring “operations” or in the attacks on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq the other day or Moam-mar Gadhafi’s Libya yesterday?
Cyprus is important for Turkey’s security as well. Greek Cypriot friends often quote Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu “confessing” in his “Strategic Depth” book that Turkey would intervene in Cyprus even if there was not a single Turkish Cypriot on the island. It is a matter of perception. If a place or something is important for a country, it is important. If there is a jewel in that important place, can it cease to be important or become even more so?
Yes, for the security of Turkey, in order to prevent the country from being encircled with hostile powers at an unfortunate time, it is important for Turkey’s strategic interests not only to have a small or big military presence but also to have friendly governments on all of Cyprus. That has been the reason why Turkey has been so forthcoming in peacemaking. Despite all criticism against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he was right in his declared “we shall be one step ahead in peacemaking” bold declaration. That is why it is in Turkey’s best interest to have a federation on the island or a velvet divorce that could produce two “sister states” enjoying good and sisterly relations. That is why Turkey has been stressing that any agreement that the two peoples of the island produce would be most welcome.
One very important dimension of the Cyprus problem, on the other hand, has been the security issue that has been coupled with the communal traumas the two peoples of the island went through in the recent history of the island. For the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey’s guarantee and alliance with them is a sine qua non for any agreement because if that guar-antee did not exist and Turkey had not intervened in 1974, Turkish Cypriots would have been exterminated by the Greek and Greek Cypriot vandals aspiring to unite the island with Greece. The trauma that Turkish Cypriots suffered from 1963, the start of Greek Cypriot attacks until the Turkish intervention and their expulsion from the partnership state, under-scores the existential importance of the 1960 guarantee system for them.
The vandals of the 1963-1974 period, the Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, suffered an immense trauma in 1974 when Turkey intervened to save Turkish Cypriots (and its interests in Cyprus). The Turkish intervention created an immense trauma for Greek Cypriots and that trauma is still continuing because consecutive Greek Cypriot governments insisted on playing a zero-sum game, never ever compromising. This was seen last in the 2004 vote on the U.N.-brokered Annan settlement plan, as they remained as distant as ever to a power-sharing deal with Turkish Cypriots.
The trauma of both two peoples must be understood well if there is a desire to reach a Cyprus settlement. Even if it appears impossible to bridge the positions of the two sides on the guarantee issue, if there is a will, there ought to be a way. However, this issue cannot be discussed solely by the two Cypriot communal leaders; the British, Greek and Turkish pres-ence at such a table is a must. Greece might be willing to give away its guarantor status. Can it withdraw all Greek officers and its paramilitary presence from Cyprus? Britain might be willing to end its guarantor status. That would be welcome, if it can completely close down its bases and completely abandon the island. Turkey has already declared its readiness to withdraw from the island when a resolution is achieved there. Its guarantor status is natu-rally dependent on the attitude of the other two and the nature of the state to be estab-lished, if there is ever going to be a Cyprus federation.
Why would the spokesman of the new Turkish Cypriot president now capture headlines with the “guarantee system is not our taboo… No schedule yet, but the meeting that will be held in September will take up the guarantees issue?” Was he so naïve and unaware of the importance of the issue, or was he thinking that he was the spokesman of the Greek Cypriot leader?
Writing an agreement is not big deal; getting two peoples’ support for it is important.