Facing reality in Cyprus

Facing reality in Cyprus

What is the reality on the land? What is the reality perceived by Turks or Greeks in Cyprus? Do they see the same reality? These and such questions that might appear odd to outsiders indeed touch the core of the Cyprus problem: a difference in perception.

In a nutshell, for Greek Cypriots, including those who were vociferous in the campaign to annihilate Turkish Cypriots, the events of the 1963-1974 era just did not happen, or for those with some sense of reality, they were “exaggerated exceptions,” but otherwise Turks and Greeks were living very happily in Cyprus like brothers and sisters. However, the 1974 Turkish intervention – as if not triggered by a coup engineered by Athens to annihilate Turks and to achieve union of the island with Greece (Enosis) – was the start and cause of the Cyprus problem. Turkish Cypriots abandoned the partnership state in 1964 to provide a pretext for the Turkish intervention.

Turkish Cypriots, however, are furious at the Greek Cypriot denial of the 1963-1974 genocidal campaigns, but have difficulty understanding the immense trauma the 1974 Turkish intervention and subsequent division of the island inflicted on the Greek Cypriot people. No one with a conscious heart can have a heartless approach to the tragedy of the missing persons, lost sons and the unfortunate stories of rape and torture claimed to have happened during the Turkish intervention period.

Obviously, if there ever will be a Cyprus settlement, the two peoples on the island must acknowledge what incredible wrongs they did to one another. Ifs and buts cannot apply. No one can be innocent if the two peoples of the island suffered for such a long period from enmity or at least intolerance toward each other. Neither was Cyprus a place the two people lived in peace and cohesion, nor the Turkish intervention brought peace and tranquility for the entire population of Cyprus.

Will that be enough? Even if achieving that might be a Herculean task, unfortunately it will not be sufficient. If at the heart of the Cyprus problem is the power-sharing issue and the refusal of the Greek Cypriot side to share power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality of the two peoples, who have made Cyprus their homeland, in the resolution of the Cyprus problem, the power-sharing chapter must be the first to be dealt with. Individual rights are sacrosanct and must be respected, but if communal rights are ignored the numerically smaller Turkish Cypriot people would be condemned to be a minority forever. However, the two communities must be equal and their equality ratio cannot be a seven to three or eight to two or whatever formula other than five to five. Yet, at a lower house, there might be a ratio representing the sizes of the two communities. The rotation of the presidency and some key posts of governmental mechanism as well as effective participation of Turks in governance are not elements of a minority governing the majority as Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades claimed.

If one side continues to say the majority cannot succumb to a minority and Turks could only have minority rights – more or less what Anastasiades said recently – there could be no Cyprus deal. Similarly, the Greek Cypriot obsession with Turkey’s guarantee and continued military presence on Cyprus cannot be answered with a simple “If they do not intend to attack Turkish Cypriots again they do not need to be scared of a Turkish intervention” answer. Turks must understand the deep wound the 1974 Turkish intervention opened on the Greek Cypriot soul. But, how are we going to have Turkish security guarantee and military presence, considered by Turkish Cypriots as a must for a settlement, while at the same time satisfy Greek Cypriots who say that in order for a resolution Turkey must get out of Cyprus? Shall Turkey be satisfied with a base in Cyprus? Could the forces of guarantors be placed under a Cypriot commander? It is difficult to reconcile the two positions on either guarantees or the power sharing headings.

Geneva talks are slated to start on June 17. Let’s wait and see the outcome.