No Cyprus talks unless...

No Cyprus talks unless...

It has become a position of negotiations, beyond public statements. Some may say the Turkish side has placed a major precondition for the start of a new round of Cyprus talks.

Right, I said, “a new round of Cyprus talks” that might kick off if a “major precondition” is accepted.

All through Tuesday night and starting from the images of the meeting of Jane Holl Lute with Presient Ersin Tatar on Tuesday noon, rather than content, including this writer, many people were busy discussing why there were no Turkish Cypriot flags in the meeting room. During Mustafa Akıncı’s presidential term in office, the persistent and shameful removal of flags of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) during presidential receptions of foreign dignitaries was one of the reasons why he was voted out in October. In the photographs of Tatar’s reception of Lute, the TRNC flag was absent again. The president eventually assured people the meeting was held in his office, not in the meeting hall and at the flag was behind his seat, thus could not be seen in the photograph. That photograph was provided to this writer as well. Furthermore, Tatar assured that from now on he would make sure the flag was also visible in the photographs of presidential receptions. A waste of effort? No. Flags are important particularly if the official position of the president is that a new round of talks must take into account Turkish Cypriots and they would not accept anything less than being “sovereign partner.”
Well, has Tatar changed his position and accepted to talk federation of two sovereign partner constituent states?

No… Not at all. As is underlined in the first sentence of the article, the Turkish Cypriot expectation is to have talks with the intention to bring about a two-state settlement. It’s no longer a political rhetoric, or statement, but a negotiation position. Could it be a settlement of two sovereign states having a confederation roof? Could it be two full-fledged sovereign states? Could it be two states within the European Union, with Turkey having EU-member like status limited to the island of Cyprus?

What is clear for now is that the Turkish Cypriot side laid it in all clarity that not a new Cyprus exercise but even an unofficial five plus one (Three guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and Britain and the two communities, and the U.N. secretary-general or his representative) suggested by Turkey cannot convene if sufficient ground was not prepared in advance. “I have told Lute that we will not go to a 5+1 conference to discuss a federal resolution.”
That is now there is a precondition. The Turkish Cypriot side may go to talks if the sides agree in advance to discuss other alternative Cyprus settlement ideas, but not a federation which Tatar said was tried to be achieved in many rounds of talks since 1977 but could not be achieved because of Greek Cypriot disinterest to share power with Turkish Cypriots.

Would there be a possibility to have a Cyprus deal if when after the Crans Montana failure in July 2017 Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades suggested de-centralized federation – something close to a confederation – and Akıncı did not bury his head into “a federation is the only way” sack and grasped his hand?
The past is gone. There is a new reality on Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot people dumped the pro-federation Akıncı and elected Tatar, who is supporting a two-state resolution. As former Greek Cypriot leader George Vassiliou commented a while ago, Greek Cypriots may continue insisting on not to recognize the Turkish Cypriot state, but that there is a TRNC reality with all its institutions – even though with some problems – and that without conceding this reality there can be no Cyprus deal.

Greek Cypriot leadership and some other countries wishing to see a Cyprus deal might want to insist on a federal settlement ignoring the reality that for a federal deal there ought to be parties willing to share sovereignty, administration, territory. If Greek Cypriots are so adamant in insisting in having a Cyprus unitary state with Turks patched up with some federal arrangements, that’s not going to happen even if the Cyprus problem remains for another century.

Tatar said he explained all these in all clarity to Lute at their talk on Tuesday. Meeting with the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy yesterday, Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades reiterated his readiness for the resumption of the talks from where they left off in Crans-Montana in 2017, as if he was not the one who walked away from a compromise deal. Obviously saying he is ready to continue from wherever they left when Crans Montana talks failed in 2017 is not an acceptable position at all. That was a take-it-or-leave-it exercise. Whatever was offered at the time, including the map Akıncı presented without consulting the Turkish Cypriot government or Ankara, all have gone down the drain. All the compromises offered or discussed at the time are now details of a closed, failed chapter.