Dancing with new ideas
Although it is not so certain when the food is cooked, when the table is set up and when the food is served, for now something seems almost certain: The food has not yet entered the pot, but it’s as if what will get cooked has been decided already.
Due to the conditions of the epidemic, physical meetings have decreased a lot. At a recent small and closed working dinner of some Turkish journalists and diplomats of a prominent country, global issues as well as Turkish foreign policy, were discussed. Presidential elections in the Turkish Cyprus were inevitably discussed too, as well as Turkey’s alleged interference in these elections, the election of Ersin Tatar and the Cyprus talks anticipated to resume anew… How, with what format and what will be the goal of the process this time are yet unclear, but it appears that none of the parties have the courage and capability to rule out participation in a process continuing off and on since 1968 with no success so far.
The confusion in North Cyprus is very high. On the one hand, there are supporters of the “two-state solution,” including the new president today, who is firmly supported by Turkey. On the other hand, there are those who support a two-state solution but say “two states within the European Union” for many highly understandable legitimate reasons. There are those on the left who say that “there will be no solution other than a federal one,” but there are also those who advocate that the federation, ought to be closer to a confederation, that the constituent states be equipped with sovereign powers other than areas such as foreign affairs, representation abroad, security, federal police and federal judiciary. Moreover, some agree with this group, especially among those who support a party along the center-right line.
Although on the Greek side, all political formations from right to left are “one state” supporters and there appears to be a firm consensus that Turkish Cypriots can only be granted “minority” rights within the framework of “autonomous” governance, there appears to be also quite a few shades of gray. It is known that President Nikos Anastasiades has proposed a loose federal administration on the island for a very long time, except for foreign affairs, foreign representation, security and federal fiscal policies. Sometimes with courage, often shyly, within the framework of a “loose federation” he made many offers, retracted and claimed to have been misunderstood. But at the end of the day it is believed that he might say yes to a loose federation proposal. (Why after the 2017 Crans Montana collapsed talks did former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı insist on a federal solution and failed to grip the loose federation offer of Anastasiades is an issue yet to be answered.)
Whether he was offering a loose federation or if it was indeed a confederation, can be discussed. Even with left-wing and right-wing nationalists obsessed with “the Republic of Cyprus cannot be compromised” position, some sort of a bi-communal governance seems to have been digested. Unfortunately, these obsessive groups still envision the Republic of Cyprus belongs solely to Greek Cypriots. They still have an understanding that “everything belongs to us,” while Turks might be given the possibility to act “sovereignly” in the fields of internal affairs, education, culture and local economy as a subordinate of this solely Greek Cypriot state. In fact, with this understanding which is the epitome of the basic Greek Cypriot politics they also outline why the Cyprus issue has not reached a federal solution over the past many decades.
Nevertheless, there are those who say that the Greek Cypriots made a huge mistake with the rejection of the Annan plan in 2004, even though it is only at the intellectual level, and that a second “Asia Minor disaster” in Cyprus is inevitable due to these and similar mistakes. The first “Asia Minor disaster” was the end of the Greek occupation of Anatolia with a great disaster and mass migration from Anatolia to Greece.
As Ozdil Nami, the foreign minister of the Republican Turks Party (CTP) governments and former chief negotiator, said recently in an interview with a Greek newspaper, the Annan plan arrangements are now in the past, and the handing back Varosha to the Greek Cypriots might no longer be in the cards. Territorial concessions, limited return of Greek Cypriots to Northern Cyprus and such issues which were previously discussed, are obviously no longer valid. There can now be “state-to-state” talks. Two sides can only discuss some sort of a two-state settlement. The era of province-like constituent states is now history. Naturally, a federation close to confederation, or a confederation of two states or two states within the EU are topics that can be discussed from now on.
At this point, international actors, especially Britain, who have not lost hope of a solution in Cyprus, have been in efforts to indirectly or implicitly discuss various ideas about what the new process should be like. Although the United States seems too be focused on elections and change of power in Washington DC, it is reported that both the United Nations and some international actors, including Britain, have voiced behind closed doors that “new ideas” should be addressed at the 5 + 1 informal Cyprus conference, which will be attended by two communities, three guarantor countries and the UN secretary general or his representative.
It is said that Britain in particular has been testing reactions to the ideas of the “loosely decentralized federation” or “two-state confederation” in various levels of negotiations with the Greek Cypriot leadership, that is, in a sense, a “sine qua non [peculiar] solution” is sought.
The response of diplomatic circles to the thesis of the Greek Cypriot side that nothing can be discussed further than the settlement proposal outlined in UN resolutions or as was already agreed by the two sides at previous talks, is rather illuminating: “If one of the two sides would like to bring up new ideas or other ideas on how certain aspects of the problem be discussed or offer a new way of resolution, the U.N. cannot say that they cannot be discussed.”
This shows that in the new period, a new goal can be set as well as the modality of the negotiations, and the new process may finally abandon the federal settlement option that could not be possible in so many past rounds of talks and now concentrate on loose and decentralized federation or confederation of two states.