High time but how?

High time but how?

There is a rare unanimity among Cyprophiles despite all the odds that perhaps there is a historic opportunity for a resolution of the Cyprus quagmire. This is perhaps a product of the frustration with the failure to strike a deal between the two peoples of the island over the past half century. It is easy to say it is high time for a settlement, but how to reach that settlement? Is there indeed any reason to expect a quick fix on the island while despite months of discussions the two sides so far could not even agree on a statement to be released if ever the two leaders come together?

There are indeed some promising signs. For example, for the first time in decades Greece is discussing Cyprus with Turkey. Irrespective of whether we like it or not, the Cyprus problem is bigger than Cyprus and indeed concerns Turkey and Greece as well. Positive contributions of these two countries might facilitate a resolution. Britain and the United States have been trying to play the role of catalyst. As frustrated as he is with the issue, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has agreed to make a “final push” for settlement on the island. Not only the secretary-general but many of the international game fixers are talking of a “final push” on Cyprus.

If this will be the “final push” and if most likely there will not be a resolution unless Greek Cypriots change their mindset and start positively contributing a compromise deal, what next? Obviously stressing to have a 1977-like high-level framework for the talks – as well to the settlement to be reached – has been detrimental so far to the start of the new process though months have passed since the February election of Nikos Anastasiades as president of the south. At Greek request Turkey agreed to reciprocal visits to Ankara and Athens by chief negotiators of the two parties on Cyprus.
Now fearing that Greek reception of a Turkish Cypriot envoy might lead to reception of Turkish Cypriot envoys by other countries, Greece and Greek Cypriots are backpedalling on the issue.

Ankara, on the other hand, has been determined to support a negotiated settlement without preconditioning what that settlement might be. Federation, confederation or two states, a senior Turkish government source explained recently, provided it is reached through free negotiations between the two sides on Cyprus Turkey was committed to support that settlement. That was of course good news. But, even for divorce there is a need for the two sides to negotiate and agree.

Was indeed this latest effort aimed at showing the world the impossible options and convince the international community support what might be possible? If that was the aim of the UN secretary-general and other international mediators, indeed Anastasiades has been helping them out with his flip-flopping presidential style, constant backpedalling almost in all areas of Cyprus talks where progress was achieved over the past years.

Yes, it might be high time for a Cyprus fix but how? If even for tango two is needed, can Turkish Cypriots sign a peace accord, a federation, confederation or a two-state accord on their own? Obviously if it has to be a negotiated settlement there is need for Greek Cypriot participation in the process. But, should it indeed be a negotiated deal? Can Turkey and Turkish Cypriots remain forever within the framework of UN parameters or can a resolution outside of UN parameters be sought? I have the feeling that the search for a “unilateral undertaking” is already underway… But how?