Futile Cyprus efforts
There are some serious signs that a team of international diplomats were working discreetly to achieve a miraculous revival of the Cyprus intercommunal talks process. The process faltered in July 2017 in the Swiss winter resort of Crans-Montana. There were two fundamental reasons behind the failure of the talks: The Greek Cypriot refusal to share power and sovereignty with Turkish Cypriots — required for a federal resolution — and the Turkish Cypriots’ lack of preparation to agree to demands for a comprehensive and short timetable for the withdrawal of Turkish troops and the termination of the 1960 guarantee scheme. Under the 1960 agreements that created the “partnership state” Cyprus Republic, Turkey, Greece and former colonial power Britain were the “guarantor powers” of the eastern Mediterranean island.
There has not been any improvement in the positions of the two sides regarding the two most important contentious issues. As the Greek Cypriot side further consolidated its opposition to power-sharing and retreated from past convergences, including the one on the rotation of the president, why are rumors spreading that there might be a new push this summer for a federal settlement on the island? The 1960 republic was a presidential one and since the 1968 start of the Cyprus intercommunal talks process, the target has always been to find a federal Cyprus settlement with presidential governance. Would Turkish Cypriots agree to revamp the presidential system and move to a parliamentary democracy? Would they agree to a Greek Cypriot being president all the time and the prime ministry rotating on a four-to-two basis?
If Turkish Cypriots had not abandoned their categorical rejection of the full withdrawal of Turkish military presence on the island, how would it be possible to revive the talks despite the full awareness that excluding a small minority, almost the entire Turkish Cypriot people, has been after a “velvet divorce” or “negotiated partition?” Similarly, if ending Turkey’s guarantor status is a sine qua non for Greek Cypriots for any deal and while it is a fundamental demand of the Turkish Cypriot people, even if Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı in a defeatist approach accept termination of the guarantee system, would such an arrangement be endorsed at twin simultaneous referenda on a deal?
Thus, irrespective of how optimistic or romantic the secretary-general might be, federation is no longer in the cards. I love reading from time to time the “Wasteland” masterpiece of T.S. Elliot, particularly “The game of chess” section. Cyprus is definitely not a wasteland, and neither are we living in the British industrial revolution era. Yet, regarding settlement efforts Cyprus has turned into a “wasteland” as despite repeated and determined failures of the past more than half century, there is an inapprehensible and premeditated effort to repeat the very same failed exercise in hopes of striking something different.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as once having said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If that statement reflects some degree of reality, we can confidently say there have been many insane visitors of the Cyprus issue.
Federation is dead and buried. Full stop. Insisting on continuing to seek a federal solution is nothing but wasting precious time and energy for processes doomed to fail. Irrespective of how many times it might be tried, the fundamental ingredients of a federal solution, the will to share power, some degree of confidence in each other and preparedness to compromise in order to build a common future are not available on Cyprus, particularly in the Greek Cypriot section.
Another complicating factor of any sort of a Cyprus effort, besides the standoff in the warming Mediterranean waters in search of hydrocarbon riches, is the fact that if not today most probably tomorrow the four-way coalition government of Northern Cyprus will collapse. Cacophony among partners, difficulty in financing the rampant budget deficit, and failure to make a new financial support protocol with Turkey appears to have brought the end of the government. The alternative two or more party conservative coalition on the other hand has hit the rocks because of a greedy politician aspiring to become an economy and finance minister in a new cabinet. There is a confidence deficiency there as well. Thus, we might say Northern Cyprus has started tilting towards an early parliamentary election.