Difficulty of a Cyprus deal

Difficulty of a Cyprus deal

At the front door of a five-star Ankara hotel, the ambassador of a not-so-big but influential Western country grabbed my arm with one hand and in a clear voice whispered into my ear: “You might be wrong… This time there might be a Cyprus deal. I want to believe so.”

So do I, and probably most Turkish Cypriots and a segment of the Greek Cypriot community also want this. A settlement might provide such huge benefits to the island, as well as to Greece and Turkey and set an exemplary model of how a multicultural, multiethnic and a multilingual problem with a long history of enmities might be resolved. It is of course important to underline the huge economic benefit a Cyprus deal might unleash. Although most people express hope of what a great contribution the offshore hydrocarbon riches would provide to the economies of both two constituent states and the federal republic should the two people of the island ever reach a deal, but the potential might be far greater than that. Alone, Turkey might provide post-settlement Cyprus a market of 80 plus million people, energizing the trade sector and turning the island into a major trade hub for the Turkish market let alone the huge similar potential it might capture as regards to regional commerce.

Prospect of a settlement providing a sense of security, dreams of building a new, peaceful and prosperous life and perhaps a hope to have an end to corruption – unfortunately rampant so far both in northern and southern Cyprus – might energize a “yes” vote in both parts of Cyprus in separate simultaneous referenda on a settlement deal. Of course, the Greek Cypriot voter might be more interested in how much territory Turkish Cypriots would secede, the amount of properties returned or how many people would be allowed to settle back in northern parts of the island. Turkish Cypriots would probably look at what rate of political equality the accord could provide as well as security arrangements and the fate of the Turkish security guarantee.

Definitely the “political equality” as well as “Turkey’s continued guarantor status” and irrespective of size “military presence” demands of Turkish Cypriots constitute the backbone of the difficulties that obstruct a settlement. Similarly, the amount of territory wanted to be returned, the percentage of Greek Cypriots to be resettled in northern Cyprus as well as the amount of property wanted to be given back to Greek Cypriots. If almost 85 percent of the Turkish Cypriot territory used to belong to either Greek Cypriots, the Cyprus Church or to the state before 1974, what a complex problem property issue is can be better understood.

The process was deadlocked last month with the Greek Cypriot side ignoring Turkish Cypriot sensitivities and trying to impose a precondition. What was it? To solve the security dimension first by putting an end to the 1960 guarantee scheme and get rid of Turkey’s military presence before moving on other topics of the Cyprus quagmire. The approach was of course totally unacceptable even for the “empathy champion” President Mustafa Akıncı of northern Cyprus, who knew well that his people would grill him if he accepted such an awkward demand. The deadlocked talks were salvaged by the U.N. chief at a New York summit with the two leaders, presumably with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades back stepping from his precondition. Yet, the catchphrase of the New York ice breaker was preparation of a “paper” on the security dimension and convening of a five-party conference on Cyprus later in June.

The presumed lifting of the Greek Cypriot precondition was apparently a misconception as it now became clear that there was no lifting of precondition. On the contrary, according to the Greek Cypriot perception of the New York ice breaker, they would attend a five-party conference – with the participation of three guarantor powers: Turkey, Greece and Britain – only if the two sides and the three guarantors could agree beforehand on a joint paper on the guarantee system.

It is indeed such sort of arrogant attitude disrespecting every agreement or compromise reached, going around all obligations and totally disregarding the sensitivities of the other on grounds that they are the “majority” and cannot be expected to succumb to the “minority” alienates all prospects of a trustworthy deal. Anyhow, even if a deal might be reached, could it last with such a mentality?