Is Crans-Montana the last chance for a federal Cyprus

Is Crans-Montana the last chance for a federal Cyprus

A settlement on Cyprus requires the two peoples of Cyprus, as well as Greece and Turkey, to put aside emotional and unrealistic designs, abandon utopias, hallucinations, dreams and concentrate on a power-sharing scheme between the “two equal constituent people” of the island.

Territorial adjustments, the property issue, refugees, external affairs, EU matters, and legal matters are all important aspects of the Cyprus problem. But some sort of deal on them will only be possible if the main problem, power-sharing, can be resolved. 

One exceptional non-fundamental aspect which may have existential importance in the overall success of Cyprus peacemaking is the security dimension, or more clearly the fate of the 1960 guarantee system.

The Greek Cypriots, still suffering from the trauma of the 1974 Turkish intervention on Cyprus, have been demanding a termination of the Alliance Agreement under which Turkey, Greece and Britain have been guarantor powers for Cyprus with a right to stage unilateral interventions. Britain have two sovereign bases as part of the agreement, through which it ceded its colonial rule and the Cyprus Republic was established.

Greece also has special relations with the Greek Cypriots and can use all military facilities a la carte. 

However, some want to kick Turkey off the island through the termination of the guarantee system. This despite the fact that there is a significant Turkish Cypriot community on the island, and despite the fact that the island, which is less than 60 kilometers from the Turkish shore, has strategic importance for Ankara’s own security. 

Ending the 1960 guarantee system would have little impact on Greece and almost no impact on British interests, but it would have serious consequences for Turkey. For Turkish Cypriot security, however, Turkey’s continued guarantee is a sine qua non of any settlement. There is a long history of Greek Cypriot attacks aimed at annihilating the Turkish Cypriots, and “spectator” U.N. peacekeepers in the 1963-1974 period have an unfortunate track record of viewing Greek Cypriot attacks on Turkish Cypriots with a perception that the “government was trying to reestablish its control on a rebellious minority.”

Now, a U.N. envoy has drafted a paper on the security dimension, while the two sides and the three guarantors have been invited to Crabs-Montana, Switzerland, for a final effort to solve the Cyprus problem under a federal roof as agreed in the 1977 and 1979 high-level agreements. The U.N.-written but “Cypriot” paper puts on record the position of the two sides under the security heading, and thus will constitute the basis of the discussions under that heading.

Will the two sides and the three guarantors – as well as the observer EU representative – agree to a federal resolution on the island this final time? Or will they let the island’s two people start considering other options, including a two-state velvet divorce? While security has been vitally important for the Turkish Cypriot people as well, the guarantee dimension of the Cyprus problem of course cannot be singled out from the other dimensions and separately resolved. 

A June 4 dinner of the two communal leaders with the U.N. chief resulted in an agreement that all headings would be discussed simultaneously. But singling out security from the rest and refusing to open discussions on power-sharing - particularly on a rotating presidency or the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in governance - cannot be part of a result-oriented approach. 

Remarks from the Greek Cypriot leadership continue to disseminate fear that Turkish Cypriot sensitivities and the agreed June 4 framework may be bypassed, with all other discussions attached to the success of discussions on the security heading. Such an approach cannot produce a successful result.

All aspects of the Cyprus problem are related. How power-sharing will be achieved, the rotation of the presidency, the duties of the police, the competencies of courts, the size of Turkish territory, the property issue, and the limit of Greek Cypriot resettlements in the northern Turkish Cypriot state cannot be separated from the security headline. If the Greek Cypriot leadership insists on closing the security chapter before moving onto other headings, perhaps we should not all waste resources on yet another expensive but futile Swiss exercise.

The chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator, Özdil Nami, was in Ankara with his team on June 22, and Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı was due to join them at night. These Ankara talks of course focused on establishing a common position, particularly on the security paper that the U.N. envoy prepared and presented to the two sides this week. Agreeing on a fundamental position may help to limit how far the empathy-obsessed Turkish Cypriot leadership will walk for the sake of a deal that the Greek Cypriots have been so reluctant to deliver.

In any case, there is an understanding among all Cypriot parties that the Crans-Montana rendezvous may be the last chance for the creation of a federal Cyprus. Seeing the panic in the southern Greek Cypriot part of Nicosia it appears that it may well be so. We’ll see…