Need for a game changer on Cyprus

Need for a game changer on Cyprus

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Ankara and Istanbul. He became the first Greek prime minister to visit the Halki Seminary. In his Ankara talks, he discussed for over three hours with top Turkish executives, more than two hours of it tête-à-tête with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on a variety of issues on ways and means to improve relations between the two countries, Turkey’s strained European Union accession talks process and of course the Cyprus issue.

If religion and language differences are to be put aside, it might be rather difficult to identify who is a Turk and who is a Greek looking just at their behavioral patterns and reactions to developments. Yet when politics enters the scene, tranquility disappears and is replaced with misconceptions, disagreements and even confrontations. There must be something wrong in the social code of the two, one might say, but indeed most of the difficulties emanate from the shared painful past for both people.

Of course how the Greeks extended a generous helping hand at the time of distress to the Turkish people when destructive earthquakes hit the Marmara region of Turkey twice in 1999. Those were very difficult times for Turks, but the helping hand of the Greek people opened a totally new era between the two countries. Not many problems were solved because of the “improved humane climate.” In 1997, Turkey and Greece were on the brink of a full-fledged war over the ownership of an Aegean islet, called Imia or Kardak.

It was of course the wisest way for Greek national interests to support Turkey’s EU admission. Rather than having an antagonist web of relations between itself and Turkey, it must be far better to have a Turkey trying to cope with the EU norms and standards and good neighborliness. After all, Greeks are pretty sure as well that there is no possibility of Turkey achieving full EU accession anytime soon as long as the present-day one-man rule and culture of confrontation are not replaced with a functioning democracy and a culture of reconciliation. Can it be better to have a Turkey at loggerheads with Greece, instead of a Turkey in an endless accession talks process?

It is just a sentimental issue of interests.

On the Cyprus issue, as well, the two countries are far apart. Greece has been committed to support the Greek Cypriot position, while Ankara has been militarily, politically and economically in Turkish Cyprus to support in every way possible the Turkish Cypriot people. Greek Cypriots have no intention of sharing power, while Turkish Cypriots say sharing power is the fundamental requirement of a federal resolution. After almost six decades of bargaining, the two sides are still far away from any possibility of forging a federation on the island. Yet, Greece and Greek Cypriots, along with an international community suffering from a phobia of secessionist minorities, adamantly oppose all other probable resolution ideas.

Of course, there is a need for a game changer on Cyprus. Apart from property ownership, settlers and such other important issues, one side insisting to preserve governance power that it usurped by force of arms and the other insisting on maintaining a territory larger than its proportional size on the island; one insisting on the withdrawal of Turkish troops and an end to the 1960 guarantee system while the other sees troops and continued guarantee of Turkey a must for its security, there is an absolute need for a game changer to force the two sides to seriously consider a compromised way out. One such probability might be establishing a joint company to rip the hydrocarbon wealth of the island, like the iron and coal accord of the post-World War II Germany and France.