Have we come to the end of the road in Cyprus talks?
When they started in a Beirut hotel back in 1968, probably neither of the two communal negotiators believed that the exercise they started would carry on for very long. Almost 50 years later, the process launched by the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş and Greek Cypriot negotiator Glafkos Klerides will this week be carried to Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, for what many people see as a final make or break push.
Many analysts believe the outcome of the Mont Pelerin round of talks, slated to last until Nov. 11, will determine whether the process will be carried to a final phase participated in by the three guarantor powers to determine the fate of the 1960 guarantee scheme. If it fails, as a Greek Cypriot colleague put it, “we all fall apart together, with unknown consequences in the foreseeable future.”
Angelos Anastasiou of the conservative Greek Cypriot English daily Cyprus Mail is not alone in his pessimistic comment that any collapse of talks might produce “unknown consequences.” As I have been stressing all along, the collapse of the Mont Pelerin round of talks or failure to move to the final phase of the talks - the international conference - will not be the end of the world or the negotiations. On the contrary, the problem will still be there. Despite the reluctance of Greek Cypriots about the creation of a new partnership federation on the basis of political equality, bi-zonality and bi-communality, and the demand of Turkish Cypriots to have their own state, the international community for some strange reason insists that the two must marry.
Neither wants the other. Both want to walk their own roads. Why are outsiders insisting on this marriage? Whatever the outcome of the Mont Pelerin round of talks, the process will continue, perhaps placed this time on a sounder basis…
The Greek Cypriots have no intentions of concluding the Cyprus talks in a bitter compromise settlement. It remains totally unacceptable for the Greek Cypriots to recognize Turkish Cypriot political equality. They cannot accept sharing sovereignty or conceding the reality that because of the atrocities committed on the island by Enosis (union of Greece) forces, there must be a legitimate and effective Turkish physical guarantee.
The Cyprus problem is neither just a refugee crisis nor a property matter. Territorial discussions and other headings are important, but for the Turkish Cypriots the governance and security chapters are of existential importance. The Cyprus problem started back in 1963 because of the Turkish Cypriots’ refusal to accept constitutional amendments that President Makarios wanted to make to annul their “equal partnership rights.”
If, without committing himself to an international conference to tackle the security aspect of the problem, Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades insists on forcing his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akıncı to accept a territorial adjustments map, the talks will collapse. The Greek Cypriots have already floated several draft maps on territorial adjustments, reducing the Turkish Cypriot territory to as low as 26 percent of the island from the current 34 percent and creating three Greek Cypriot cantons in the Turkish Cypriot area.
These are, of course, wild dreams. Compromising on Morphou (Güzelyurt) was possible for the Turkish Cypriots in 2004 when the previous Annan Plan was voted on. But the Greek Cypriots, who rejected that plan, must now understand that after 12 long years, demography and economic viability have changed a lot and many Turkish Cypriots have made the region their home. The belief that because the 2004 plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots any new plan must be “improved and made acceptable for them” is a totally unacceptable mentality. The idea of Greek Cypriot cantons in the Turkish Cypriot region amounts to nothing other than fooling the Turkish Cypriots and trying to get more territorial concessions.
So Anastasiades must come with reasonable proposals and he should also0 bear in mind that without him agreeing first to carrying these talks to the last stage - to a conference participated in by Turkey, Greece and Britain - there cannot be any discussion on the prospective map of the prospective federation. Putting maps on the table would do nothing but give a kiss of death to the process.
The threat of annexation of northern Cyprus by Turkey has started to be whispered about frequently. The claim that Akıncı “warned” Anastasiades that if no deal was reached by the end of this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intends to annex northern Cyprus, must be a very bad joke. However, can anyone seriously rule out comfortably that northern Cyprus will never become a second Hatay?
Still, bearing in mind the serious consequences of such an adventure, I tend to believe that such a probability is not on the cards. So while the Mont Pelerin round of talks appear doomed to collapse, there will neither be annexation or a deadlock. Perhaps the two sides will finally start talking about a velvet divorce.