Have we reached a Cyprus decision?
The new Cyprus rendezvous in Geneva is in a few days and the sides are undertaking their last preparations for what is claimed to be a make-or-break session. Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has been saying that if these efforts fail as well, it might take another ten years or so to launch a new Cyprus initiative and in any case “This will be the last settlement exercise done by our generation.”
Which generation? The one that created the Cyprus problem, or at least watched some others masterly devastate the 1960 partnership state? There is a truth in what Akıncı has been saying, though he has been standing on a very wrong point. He has forgotten that he was elected as the Turkish Cypriot leader, who must mind the interests of the Turkish Cypriot people, and stop engaging in empathy, and leave defending Greek Cypriot interests to his Greek counterpart Nikos Anastasiades.
Cyprus observers and those involved in Cyprus diplomacy keep stressing that the current exercise was different than all others and for the first time ever, there were two leaders speaking a different and constructive language. There is misconception at that point. What is that “different and constructive language”? Nikos Anastasiades has been uttering the very same language used by his predecessors. He has been talking about a settlement that Turkish Cypriots could have some advanced minority rights. That’s how he perceives the “political equality” principle. Until this moment, he has not agreed to a rotation in presidency system, an effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in governance, or has not disclosed yet the kind of magical formula he has been trying to achieve in bi-zonality and bi-communality while at the same time has not managed the right for return of all refugees. If before the 1974 intervention of Turkey in Turkish Cyprus was owned by over 85 percent by Greek Cypriots, how will the “ownership rights” be restored without hindering the by-zonality and bi-communality principles?
In any case, only Akıncı and some internationally well-paid bureaucrats believe a settlement is indeed around the corner. Anastasiades and his comrades continue stressing that at least under 103 subheadings of the six-chapter negotiation process there were “serious differences.”
Under the agreed schedule, the Geneva round of talks will start on Jan. 9. For three days, the two leaders and their teams will replace all outstanding differences with new sets of convergences, put their respective territorial adjustment offers and maps on the table on Jan. 11 and on Jan. 12 an international conference participated by “at least” the two sides of Cyprus and the three guarantor powers of the 1960 agreements, Turkey, Greece and Britain, will be conducted. Why “at least” by five parties? That is primarily because Greek Cypriots want the permanent five of the Security Council as well as the EU be among the participants of the “international conference.” The EU must attend, they say, because the federation will be an EU country. The permanent five? Greek Cypriots want an end to the guarantee system because it was incompatible in contemporary conditions and EU membership of Cyprus, but demands Security Council guarantee and monitoring for the implementation of the Cyprus accord if it were to ever to be reached…
No one should expect an easy summit in Geneva. The give-and-take process will be very difficult and painful. The leaders will have to demonstrate their capabilities in leadership as well as courage. A decision to walk the extra mile and reach a compromise painful resolution will be as difficult as saying “Sorry, this much” and pull out of the process. Particularly for Akıncı, failure of the process will mean his political bankruptcy as he has walked so much in compromise despite very bitter and harsh criticisms he received in Turkish Cyprus, which even reached a point of labelling him a traitor. Walking that extra mile, on the other hand, might produce such a negative perception that the deal reached might collapse in separate referenda.
Many people have already condemned the process as a loser game because of the concessions Akıncı so far gave in all headings but particularly regarding cross-voting, the amount of Greek Cypriots to be settled in the north, four freedoms, the first right to apply granted to “original” property owners and of course guarantees. Latest opinion polls indicate that in the north around 85 percent might say no in a referendum if Turkey’s guarantee was not retained. An equal percentage categorically rejects the resettlement of Greek Cypriots into the north.
Similarly, how will Anastasiades get a yes vote in a referendum if Turkish soldiers stayed on the island even for an agreed two to ten-year period of time? What if Morphou (Güzelyurt) is not given back by Akıncı?
Greece has been a constant problem maker regarding the guarantees. It wants Ankara out of Cyprus. So far, Ankara has not been publicly vocal on the issue but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not expected to walk such a road.
Thus, excluding Akıncı, no one appears hopeful that there might be a deal next week in Geneva. Will that be the end of the Cyprus diplomacy? Will the problem be over? No… So, is it not obvious, when the time ripens sufficiently, there will be a new exercise. Is it not what we have been living in Cyprus ever since?
If a settlement is wanted, let them get a divorce first. The two parties, on equal footing, may only then speak of a federation or confederation on their shared homelands. Otherwise, these are waste of efforts, energy and money…