Preparing for a stillborn Cyprus initiative
Revelations from the Greek Cypriot administration regarding the compromises President Mustafa Akıncı unilaterally offered to Greek Cypriots in talks collapsed at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, two years ago may explode the already delicate relations between the center-right government and the socialist president in Northern Cyprus.
Particularly, reports that the map Akıncı placed in a UN safe during Crans-Montana talks was not indeed the only copy but was also presented to the Greek Cypriot side was rather irritating. Not only did Akıncı singlehandedly, without even consulting the government and Parliament on whose behalf he has been negotiating with the Greek Cypriots, ordered the map to be prepared and presented to the United Nations and the Greek Cypriot side during the Crans-Montana talks two years ago. After the talks collapsed, he withdrew the copy from the UN safe, but the copy presented to the Greek leadership was apparently not withdrawn till this day. This situation might create a serious crisis in Northern Cyprus, if for a change, the center-right coalition in office decides to publicly confront, or worse, initiate; an impeachment process on the grounds of treason.
Can a president who has been in serious conflict on fundamentals of the Cyprus issue with the government in office initiate a new process? If the government is of the opinion that federation is dead and as long as the Greek Cypriot side remained adamantly opposed to sharing power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality, can there be a new federation-aimed process? Worse, can there be any chance of success for a new federation process if Ankara is not prepared to accept an end to its 1960 agreement-derived guarantor status. Can there be any chance of success if repeated polls showed clearly that Turkey’s military presence and guarantor status remain sine qua non for most Turkish Cypriots for a settlement and Greek Cypriots continue to stubbornly demand “zero guarantee, zero troops, zero settlers” as a must for a resolution?
The two-way center-right government included in its program that the island should resolve the six-decades-old inter-communal problem in a two-state formula. Furthermore, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay is known to be supportive of the “two states in the European Union” formula. Now, Akıncı has been claiming that in 2015 he was elected with a mandate to negotiate a federal solution. He cannot now engage in a process aimed at ending the Cyprus problem in a two-state resolution. By doing so, he indeed contradicted both with his government as well as with the Turkish position, which moved from a federal resolution to a two-state Cyprus over the past few years.
Despite his talks with the UN special envoy, plans for a tripartite and even a five-party official or non-official gathering, an Akıncı so seriously marginalized might not be at all possessing the capacity to deliver a settlement particularly if he faces a reelection challenge in April 2020. As the presidential election date approaches and in view of the fact that Özersay, as well as former socialist Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman, will be the likely contenders for the presidency, it is obvious that Akıncı will be further marginalized in the months ahead. On the other hand, if the Republican Turks’ Party (CTP) Erhürman decides at its upcoming October general convention not to nominate a candidate and instead support Akıncı, then will emerge a very dangerous polarization.
The Turkish Cypriot vote is generally divided as 35 percent left, 65 percent right. Both Mehmet Ali Talat and Akıncı were elected as president because of defections from the center-right. For example, it was no secret that when Akıncı won over Derviş Eroğlu in 2015, it was mostly because a disgruntled Prime Minister İrsen Küçük supported discreetly the socialist candidate rather than his party’s candidate, Eroğlu.
Even though Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades has been saying he wanted a federal settlement – mostly because he survives on support from the federalist socialist Akel party – he has been adamantly against power sharing on the basis of political equality, a key component of federalism. In private, there have been claims that he wanted a loose federation and may even walk the road of two states rather than accepting to “surrender majority Greek Cypriots to the mercy of Turkish Cypriots” by accepting effective participation in governance.