Cyprus skidding

Cyprus skidding

Irrespective whether Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades would like to accept it or not the offshore hydrocarbon riches of the eastern Mediterranean island “is linked with the peace talks and cannot be delinked.” Could it be said clearer than that? Hydrocarbons issue has become part and parcel of the already problematic Cyprus talks process. Who has said this? UN Secretary-General`s Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide has said it and placed himself under the salvo of the Greek Cypriots.

Greek Cypriot leadership has been demanding that “unless Turkey stopped bullying” it would not return to the Cyprus peace talks. Furthermore, as was stressed in the statement of Anastasiades after his meeting with political party leaders on Jan. 5, the Greek Cypriot leadership has started claiming that “natural wealth belongs to the state and the responsibility for managing it lies with the government of the time for the benefit of all the legal residents of the country.” What’s the meaning of that? Turkish Cypriots can get their share from the wealth of the island when the accept to become “legal citizens” of the “only legitimate government.” Thus, Anastasiades is telling Turkish Cypriots: Surrender, accept osmosis, get a share from gas...

This is of course sheer blackmail. Was it wrong for the Turkish Cypriot president in urging Turkey and the international community not to allow unilateral Greek Cypriot actions aimed at eradicating the Turkish Cypriot partnership rights on the entire island, as well as its offshore riches? Turkey has been demonstrating all along that under every condition it would not abandon Turkish Cypriots.

The October Navtex Turkey issued had expired on Nov. 30 and Barbaros seismic ship left the disputed waters. A new Navtex was not immediately issued and Turkey preferred to give some precious time to Eide to convince Anastasiades to return talks with no precondition – with the gas issue becoming part of the process – or else… If the Greek Cypriots decided to renew their unilateral Navtex and continue drilling in the disputed waters up until March 19, could it be a surprise for anyone if the Turkish Navtex is renewed as well? That was what happened, Ankara would not surrender to the caprices of Anastasiades.

With clocks ticking for the Turkish Cypriot presidential election time is indeed running up. At the presidential vote scheduled for April incumbent Derviş Eroğlu is seeking reelection while the ruling coalition’s senior partner socialist Republican Turks’ Party (CTP) is supporting parliament speaker Sibel Siber. Another important candidate is the former legendary mayor of Nicosia Mustafa Akıncı who made a comeback to politics after more than a decade of “peaceful family life.” Yet another candidate is academician Kudret Özersay, a former chief negotiator.

The election campaign kicked off with the start of the new year and each of the four candidates are in efforts to pass on the “I will be the best president and I can defend best the rights of my people at the Cyprus talks process” message to some 175,000 eligible voters who will go to the booths to elect the new president.

Northern Cyprus is under international isolation and its economy is largely dependent on Turkey’s support and, though to a lesser degree than Greek Cypriots next door who suffered the worst economic-financial crisis of their recent history,  the global economic crisis has produced some very serious adverse effects on the living conditions of Turkish Cypriots. According to the main opposition National Unity Party (UBP) which is supporting its former leader Eroğlu in the presidential race, the CTP-led coalition government despite increased Turkish support landed the Turkish Cypriot economy in a catastrophic situation. Of course it is politics and there is some degree of exaggeration but economic prospects of northern Cyprus considerably receded over the past years and a structural readjusting program aimed at introducing monetary discipline – blamed as one of the important reasons why the UBP failed in the last parliamentary elections – was long shelved, demonstrating Turkey’s support for the socialist-led government.

The presidential campaign, however, is not dominated by economy, unemployment or any other subject other than the Cyprus issue. Eroğlu is campaigning on the promise tat he could negotiate the best deal for Turkish Cypriots while Siber is stressing she is the candidate of those supporting a “federal Cyprus.” Akıncı is claiming only he can bring about a Cyprus settlement because he has a different language. Former chief negotiator Özersay, on the other hand, is pledging to be an “honest negotiator” stressing a settlement cannot be done only by the negotiator or by the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, but international actors must as well wish for a deal. Who will win the race is an irrelevant question for now though it appears to be Eroğlu is far ahead of all other candidates in the polls. In any case, however, if Cyprus talks did not start soon, the pro-settlement leftist candidates Siber and Akıncı will be affected worst diminishing their already dim chances.

If talks could not be resumed within next few weeks, hopes will have to wait until next autumn but by then depending on the result of the presidential vote north Cyprus may go to early elections and thus skidding of the peace process likely to continue.