Missing element in Cyprus

Missing element in Cyprus

Something very crucial is missing in the Cyprus negotiations and diplomacy: humanitarian contacts.

That missing element has so far prevented a Cyprus settlement, and most probably has made the current process doomed to fail as well. This writer is aware how seriously the Americans, British and the Europeans are engaged in discreet, as well as open Cyprus diplomacy. Efforts are underway even to bypass the Cyprus problem and provide a “win-win” formula to the Mediterranean hydrocarbon wealth sharing between the two parties on the eastern Mediterranean island. Why do you think Joe Biden, the American vice president, is putting on his boots to make a first-ever visit after 52 years to Cyprus?

Well, the visit was originally planned for Secretary of State John Kerry, but after he conditioned his trip so much to Turkish Cypriots presenting Varosha on a golden platter to Greek Cypriots as a “starter” demonstrating their “goodwill” to surrender, it could not be achieved. The American ambassador was compelled to make a statement that Varosha was not a confidence building measure, but a territorial issue that ought to be handled within the territorial aspects of the Cyprus problem.

Why will Biden now be visiting the island from May 20 to 23? Holidaying? He could have gone to Florida, perhaps, but why Cyprus and why now? Or, why has the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rehashed its 2001 decision and ordered Turkey to pay 90 million euros to Cyprus for its 1974 “invasion” and the island’s “subsequent division.” Hold on, did Turkey lose a war and will now pay reparations?

The court, furthermore, said the passage of time did not erase Turkey’s responsibility, ruling that Turkey must pay 30 million euros in damages to the relatives of those missing from the operations and 60 million euros for “the enclaved Greek-Cypriot residents of the Karpas peninsula.” Was it not the same court that turned down similar Turkish Cypriot applications citing the excuse of a statute of limitation?

Honesty, sincerity, goodwill, engagement in earnest and you list the rest of the requirements for the success of any negotiations between two or more parties. Since 1968, the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus have been negotiating off and on a deal to somehow revive the short-lived 1960 partnership governance. Once, in 1973, negotiators from the two sides reached an agreement providing autonomy, that is, some sort of privileged minority rights to Turkish Cypriots. Then President Archbishop Makarios vetoed it, saying any agreement that allowed Turkish troops to stay on the island and that gave Turkish Cypriots a say in governance was unwelcome. In 2004, a peace deal was narrowly missed.

Under it, the two peoples were to engage in a power-sharing federal arrangement and bury the Cyprus problem in history. Greek Cypriots killed it, claiming it kept Turkish troops, but were not clear how the peace deal would be enforced and asked why would they share power with Turkish Cypriots?

Now the Turkish government in Ankara is stressing the ECHR decision was not binding. The foreign minister must be joking. Let me remind him that Turkey was one of the founding parties to the Council of Europe. That’s not the way Turkey and Turkish Cypriots should react. They should remember that even in the Annan plan there was a stipulation that the two sides should refrain from actions in the international arena that could hurt the spirit of negotiations. Now, is the ECHR decision compatible with goodwill and sincerity in negotiations or is it a declaration of war? Shall we still engage in talks or should we walk out and just say we will be back when you are honest?