Interesting times in Cyprus
The Greek Cypriot side starting to consider prospects other than federation for a resolution on the island is a promising sign. If federation is a term that requires the sharing of political authority, resources and the territory between two or more partners and if the Greek Cypriot side has no intention of undertaking any such move regarding power and resources-sharing particularly, it ought to be obvious to anyone that talking about federation can only be a waste of time. Indeed, more than half a century is lost in such futile efforts since the 1968 start of Cyprus talks at a Beirut hotel.
For the first time, a recent report submitted to the Security Council by the U.N. secretary-general did not only make even one reference to federation, but also underlined the frustration of the international community with the Cyprus stalemate. Indeed it could be argued that perhaps the latest Cyprus report of the secretary-general was the most courageous of all, since the previous secretary-generals had reported to the Security Council every six months since the 1964 dispatch to the island of the U.N. peace force. Unfortunately, these talks were used – and are still wanted to be used – by the Greek Cypriot side to silence any potential criticism of their single-handed rule of the island contrary to the 1960 founding agreements. Nowadays, they have an added reason to get the talks going on: To legitimize unilateral hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean with an assumption that if and when there is a settlement they will give the share of Turkish Cypriots.
Abandoning the federation target and starting to talk of loose federation, confederation or even two states in EU options, therefore, ought to be considered a positive development. Yet, is there will for a resolution or will the Nikos Anastasiades administration have the political courage to walk such a road? If Anastasiades is surviving on support from the left, which remains committed to a federal resolution shunning ethic and cultural divides through achieving osmosis of Turks in a Greek pond, and if the current Turkish Cypriot leader shares identical obsessions despite all the repeated failures of the past half century, prospects are rather dim.
Recently, at a dinner, during which refugee problems were discussed, a senior diplomat stressed that people must see the glass half full. That is, of course, a “half reality” or “constructive ambiguity” required for diplomacy to succeed. Yet, conceding that the glass is half empty is equally important and meaningful as it underlines the deficiencies and problems that ought to be tackled rather than be carried away with romantic optimism.
The Cyprus glass is now being filled. That is promising. Greek Cypriots, though without political will, have started talking about other options. On the Turkish Cypriot side a new leader is in the making. Because of the absence of a credible leader on neither of the left or right spectrum of politics in Northern Cyprus, there has been a very serious political deficiency over the past many years. Now we see two important developments.
First, Kudret Özersay, the leader of the People’s Party (HP), is emerging as a strong candidate to fill the center-right leadership seat that has been vacant since the demise of the late Rauf Denktaş. Not only does he have wide popular support at home, Özersay has started being considered by Ankara as a man with whom it could work in harmony. While at home Mustafa Akıncı has been complaining he was sidelined by Ankara — and vowing he would ignore Turkey as well — the latest trip of Özersay to Ankara demonstrated changing roles in Northern Cyprus once again.
The second, and equally important development, is the emergence of Ersin Tatar’s leadership probability in the National Unity Party (UBP), a political group that has its roots in the resistance movement against Greek Cypriot genocidal practices of the 1960s and 1970s. Will he succeed in the upcoming Oct. 27-28 convention of the UBP? Apparently yes.
It will be a very promising development to see Özersay and Tatar soon at the helm of the government in Northern Cyprus.