Is there political will for a bitter Cyprus solution?
Can we have a fresh start in Cyprus peacemaking after Greek Cypriots elected a new president who was the sole political leader who supported the previous peace plan? Can the Cyprus problem be solved over a fish and raki feast at a splendid restaurant on the Bosporus? Is there anyone willing to compromise to achieve a resolution to the almost half-century-old Cyprus problem?
There is no need for pessimism but it would be awkward to forget the bitter peacemaking history of Cyprus that defied so many efforts and so many initiatives, an army of top brass international mediators. For a settlement on Cyprus the sine qua non is the existence of political will on both sides of the divided island, as well as in Ankara and Athens. If there is political will, then it might be plausible to talk of prospects of a bitter compromise resolution through a give-and-take process. Could this be called a “land for sovereignty” deal or what; that’s indeed irrelevant. What’s important is that at the end of the day both sides on the island will have to make some not so easy compromises without which a resolution would not be possible; the past half century testifies to that.
Thus, what’s important is not whether the Greek Cypriot president-elect Nikos Anastasiades supported the previous UN-brokered peace plan or the Annan Plan. It is not relevant at all whether he is tall or short. The fact that he was the only Greek Cypriot political party leader to visit Ankara and talk with Turkish colleagues during the Annan Plan time shows his willingness to engage. But can he have the political will now, particularly in light of the fact that he has become president with the precious electoral support of the Democrat Party (Diko) that has been staunchly against a resolution of compromise? Does it matter whether talks resumed in March or April if there is no awareness that Greek Cypriot economic woes – which Anastasiades now says would be his primary focus – could become nuanced compared to the economic boom a resolution would flash?
Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış’s offer to host Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot president and prime minister for a fish and raki feast on the Bosporus is an offer difficult to achieve. But it could have far-reaching results beyond being just a political joke offering us a smirk. The Annan Plan process had started with former Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides in an interview with this writer inviting late President Rauf Denktaş to have coffee together. The reply was affirmative and dinner exchanges produced the failed process. Why should we now not have the Bosporus process? What’s wrong in having fish and raki (of course, if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not there) and discussing prospects of a resolution on the island through give and take? Are negotiations too serious to be held at a raki table? Talks were held for years with interlocutors wining and dining, and nothing concrete happened. What’s wrong in trying the raki option? Besides, the Bosporus’ romance is ideal for all kinds of fresh relationships, is it not?
Jokes aside, the election of Anastasiades and Ankara firming its muscles in the north by getting Prime Minister İrsen Küçük reelected at his party convention despite President Eroğlu’s obvious opposition could produce a new impetus and might play the role of a catalyst for a resolution… The key question being, is there political will for a biting compromise resolution? Turkish Cypriots, for existential reasons, are decided, have been decided since 2004. That’s not enough, yet I am cautiously optimistic of prospects.