Searching to continue for Cyprus breakthrough
Weeklong shuttle diplomacy efforts by Jane Holl Lute, the U.N. secretary-general’s envoy for Cyprus, ended in failure but with a pledge that efforts will continue to achieve a breakthrough on the intractable aspects of the problem that successfully defied all efforts for a resolution for the past almost 60 years.
The foremost hitch that prevented success of the talks was an old issue: The inability of the Greek Cypriots to accept Turkish Cypriot political equality and its related demand, the effective participation in governance. The second important failure was the inability of Turkish Cypriot Mustafa Akıncı to offer an end to the Turkish guarantee, as Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom were not involved in the shuttle diplomacy effort of Lute. It was noteworthy that the Greek Cypriot side offered back on Aug. 9 that it might give Turkish Cypriots an annual $200 million share from the probable hydrocarbon revenues of the island in exchange of Turkey recognizing before a resolution on Cyprus the exclusive economic zone rights of the Cyprus republic. Obviously, thanks to the public warning issued by Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay not only Akıncı could not make an imposition on Ankara, but public pressure mounted to make such a suicidal compromise impossible.
If Greek Cypriots could have compromised to share sovereignty and territory of the island on the basis of political equality and within the framework of a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation with Turkish Cypriots having an effective participation (which was indeed downsized to a one Turkish Cypriot yes vote for Cabinet decisions) perhaps it would be rather difficult for Ankara to be the odd party that prevented a resolution because of its intransigence regarding the guarantee issue.
Yet, the Greek Cypriot intransigence doomed to week-long shuttle diplomacy terminated in failure other than a trilateral photo session and a not-so-rich reception hosted by Lute in honor of the two leaders. Still Lute and the two presidents said some important headway was achieved – what they were perhaps will become clear in a day or so – but no agreement could have been achieved on the reference points to be used as the basis of resumed talks. That ought to be the diplomatic way of confessing failure but admitting that the Cyprus file cannot be closed so easily after almost 60 years of all unsuccessful web of talks.
Why? The foremost reason might be the stance of the two communal representatives not to be the one that threw in the towel. Neither of them wanted to accept being the one to call the Cyprus process – which is in deadlock anyhow and landed in failure once again. Greek Cypriots, particularly, have been against such a development fearing it might pave the way to the international recognition of the Turkish Cypriot state so far recognized only by Turkey.
The Turkish Cypriot leader, on the other hand, is aiming to seek reelection in April next year. He was elected in 2015 with a pledge to resolve the Cyprus problem within a year or so. He has also been on record that his only goal was to achieve a Cyprus deal. If he wants to run again, he badly needs to be equipped with the possibility to say to his people perhaps with problems created by Turkey no progress was achieved so far but talks aimed at achieving a Cyprus federation will kick back days after the election if he is reelected in April. Yet, conservatives, nationalists, as well as Ankara, have been flirting with the idea of confederation, two states and such new ideas, declaring federation was a dead and buried option. The inability to overcome this hurdle prevented an agreement on reference points yet Akıncı managed to get support to a vague “failed but will continue efforts” statement.
The statement of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at Yeni Erenköy village – one of the villages that Akıncı pledged to give back to Greek Cypriots at the failed Crans Montana process – that it would be an act of treason if anyone talked of terminating the 1960 guarantee system demonstrated a widening rift between Akıncı and Ankara. Also, disclosure of Çavuşoğlu that the latest Turkish Cypriot offer regarding the establishment of a hydrocarbon ad hoc committee was indeed one developed by Ankara and Özersay was another humiliating blow on Akıncı’s credibility as a leader.
The Lute effort was a stillborn one. It failed, as expected. Search will continue, the leaders and Lute said. If Akıncı or someone of his caliber is elected, perhaps a new and again doomed to fail push for a federation might become possible. However, if Özersay or someone with a vision for a two-state resolution becomes Turkish Cypriot leader, probably a more invigorated and result-oriented process might get underway.