Do the Greeks want a Cyprus deal?

Do the Greeks want a Cyprus deal?

It is like a very bad joke, but after more than half a century since late Archbishop Makarios ignited the Cyprus fire by floating the idea of constitutional amendments “to increase governance efficiency,” the island is still seeking efficiency and a correction of the original sin: The greed to make Cyprus a Greek island.

What Makarios wanted was to get rid of 13 articles of the 1960 Constitution that made the Cyprus Republic an effective federation through providing Turkish Cypriots some privileged rights in both legislation and governance. Those privileges included, for example, veto power of the Turkish Cypriot vice president, or the requirement of a separate Turkish Cypriot quorum and qualified vote in security or tax legislation.

Makarios wanted to have a strong unitary state with Turkish Cypriots enjoying minority rights, perhaps privileged minority rights, but nothing further than that. All Greek Cypriot leaders over the past decades abided by that principle, while Turkish Cypriots refused to give in and no Cyprus settlement was therefore possible. Naturally, there were ups and downs along this road. One was December 1963, the bloody Christmas. On the night of Dec. 21, 1963, Greek Cypriots opened the “Akritas Dossier” and started implementing a plan throughout the island for the extermination of the Turkish population within 24 hours. They failed. Another was the 1967 attempt to force the Turkish Cypriots to surrender. It also failed. Another was the 1974 Greek-engineered coup by supporters of union with Greece. It failed, but as a consequence Turkey intervened and Turkish Cypriots for the first time were provided with a secure homeland in northern Cyprus, where they prospered from an average per capita income of around $490 in 1974 to around $16,000 now.

Since the 1974 Turkish intervention, but particularly since the 1983 proclamation of their Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Turkish Cypriots have been under an inhumane embargo, including of sports, education, health, travel and all other fields considered inalienable rights for the people of the rest of the world. A Turkish mainland sports team cannot play with a Turkish Cypriot team, because FIFA does not allow it. Unimaginable, is it not? Turkish Cypriot students cannot compete in international sports tournaments. The TRNC is currently hosting the first university games of the Economic Cooperation Organization (or ECO, which brings together Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and some Central Asian states), but the Greek Cypriots are up in arms. They have sent diplomatic notes to ECO countries protesting their participation in university games in “occupied” northern Cyprus.

Reactions from Greek Cypriot readers to my articles published in this column vividly demonstrate the darkness of the superiority obsession, which, despite the economic-financial crisis, still runs high. The Greek Cypriots cannot accept the idea of a Turkish troop presence on Cyprus because of the 1974 trauma. I fully understand their phobia, but just cannot comprehend why they cannot understand Turkish Cypriot phobias related to the 1963-1974 period? Cyprus diplomacy definitely needs more empathy and less rhetoric if we want to reach a federal resolution. If the two sides on the island insist on proceeding as they have been doing since the 1964 start of Cyprus inter-communal talks, it is obvious that the island will inch every day toward making de facto partition into a de jure two-state reality.

I wonder, are the Greek Cypriots prepared for a Cyprus deal based on the political equality of the two peoples? If the answer is yes, then why don’t they demonstrate it?