From federation to two states

From federation to two states

Who was the father of a federal settlement in Cyprus? From the discussions of the day, it is as if the Greek Cypriot side wanted a federal settlement, but the Turks objected to it all along. Wrong.

The federation discussion started before the 1974 Athens-engineered coup against Archbishop Makarios or the subsequent Turkish intervention. It was even before the start of the intercommunal talks process in 1968 at a Beirut hotel when in 1965 Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş first spelled out his conviction that a replacement of the de-facto federation of the Cyprus Republic with a full-fledged federation of two politically equal communities of Cyprus might not only stop bloodshed but provide a lasting, sustainable and just settlement on the island.

Naturally, Denktaş was crucified by Makarios, the Greek Cypriot intelligentsia, and of course by Athens, aspiring to achieve union of the island with Greece, that is “enosis.” What was Turkey’s response to such a “fantasy” at the time? That is not clear but several months before the 1974 Athens coup on the island and the subsequent Turkish intervention, Turkey’s young prime minister of the time, Bülent Ecevit, made some public statements that Cyprus should perhaps move from an undeclared federal Cyprus Republic to an official federation of two communities and establish a system based on political equality and efficient power-sharing of the two people of the island.

There are as well some unconfirmed claims that in the last pre-1974 intervention round of talks between Denktaş and Greek Cypriot interlocutor Glafkos Clerides, the two sides “almost agreed” or Denktaş “succumbed” to the demands of the Greek Cypriot leadership to change the seven to three ratio in representation in legislature and executive, as well as in public offices and give up the veto power. In talks with me, Denktaş never described what the deal might be but repeatedly confirmed that a painful deal was within reach. Why an accord did not emerge? There are as well many unconfirmed or semi-confirmed stories on the issue. The most prominent one is the refusal by Makarios on grounds while all other fundamental demands of the Greek Cypriot side were accepted by Denktaş, an end to the guarantor status of Turkey and withdrawal of Turkish troops were the red lines that Clerides could not convince the Turkish Cypriot leader to cross over. Yet, the two were close to a painful deal.

After the July 20, 1974 intervention, at the Geneva conferences, on the table was the Turkish demand to establish a “cantonal federation.” The Turkish Cypriots would have five cantons, comprising less than 20 percent of the territory of the island. In 1977 the Greek Cypriot side was compelled to agree to a “bizonal, bicommunal federal resolution” cliché as the target of the process but always refused to explain what they indeed understand from the word “federation.”

All through the more than a half-century of Cyprus peacemaking process, the two sides came to the brink of a federal resolution many times, but each time for the very same reason, the Greek Cypriots balked out of a deal at the very last point. Why? They never ever wanted to share the resources of the island, power and sovereignty with the Turkish Cypriots. On the people-to-people contacts, there might not be problems between the two ethnic groups all the time, but at the communal level, the Greek Cypriots refused to treat the Turkish Cypriots as their political equals, put aside the “partnership in sovereignty” or “effective representation in governance” demands. 

Two independent states, or two states in the EU, therefore, might be the sole probability of a deal on the island irrespective of whether the two states be under a confederal roof or an indirect federation under the EU roof.