Revisiting the Acheson plan

Revisiting the Acheson plan

Greek Cypriot papers continue to speculate on how the “security dimension” of the Cyprus problem could be solved. Their obsession, unfortunately, is still with the presence of Turkey’s troops on the island. Though Greek Cypriots do not want to see even one Turkish soldier left on the island in any settlement of the Cyprus issue, they also concede the reality that Turkey has at least as much legitimacy to have a presence on the island as the British or Greeks. 

If for nothing else, the close proximity of the island to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast makes it an absolute necessity of Ankara not just to have a Cyprus deal but also to help secure friendly governance on the island. That means Turkey cannot compromise on its security and relinquish its physical and moral obligation of solidarity with the Turkish Cypriot people.

At a time when Cyprus is important for the British, the French, the Russians, the Israelis and of course the Greeks, is it reasonable to claim – perhaps just to soothe the Turcophobia of Greek Cypriots - that Turkey should abandon not only Turkish Cypriots but also its legitimate security interests? Of course, throughout British rule on the island there was no Turkish military presence on the island, and Turkey and Britain have not always been best of friends (indeed during the First World War they belonged to different camps). So besides the morally devastating impact withdrawal would have, such experiences compel Turkey to not consider withdrawal or abandoning the island militarily in full.

Why would it? Could Britain close down its bases and abandon the island? Making cosmetic gestures and giving a portion of its “sovereign” base area to the Greek Cypriot administration effectively amounts to nothing more than the notorious Acheson plan of the early 1960s. Under that plan, Cyprus would have been united with Greece, British bases would have remained, and Turkey would have been given a base area on the Karpas peninsula. Turkish Cypriot enclaves – areas where Turkish Cypriots were in majority – would have enjoyed local autonomy, including taxation, education and local security. 

Now, Greek Cypriot papers claim that Turkey has been floating the idea of terminating the 1960 guarantee system, under which - besides Turkey - Britain and Greece are guarantor powers of the island in exchange for it being given a base area, big enough to establish an operable military base with full rights to deploy ground, air and naval forces. Has Turkey spoken about the issue with the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council? That would not be so absurd if the Greek Cypriot side has indeed been adamant about killing the 1960 guarantee system. What’s more, Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has for some time allegedly been sounding – at least unofficially – like he would not allow a Cyprus deal to collapse just because of disagreements on the guarantee issue.

If such a deal is to be supported by the Turkish Cypriot people in a referendum - and any Cyprus deal will have to be put to separate simultaneous votes of the two peoples on the island - then finding a way to satisfy the security obsession of the Turkish Cypriot people is a must. The conditions of the 1960s are no longer valid, the world has changed, the Greek Cypriots have changed, and it would be absurd to assume they would engage once again in atrocious campaigns against the Turkish Cypriots. But nobody would be able to convince the Turkish Cypriots about the validity of such an assumption, particularly in view of the fact that even during the current negotiation process the Greek Cypriot leadership has not stopped for a second in efforts to fool Turkish Cypriots. For example, is there any logic in calling for the withdrawal of Turkish troops while trying to establish a 3,000-strong paid force in which mainland Greeks might also participate, under their “joint defense” doctrine? Or are efforts to enhance Greek Cypriot governance over the Turkish Cypriot population compatible with such an expectation?

A sovereign Turkish base might help defuse the security concerns of Turkish Cypriots, terminate the guarantee system of 1960, and perhaps soothe the Turcophobia of Greek Cypriots. It could be a win-win situation.

Is it achievable? Unfortunately, no. The Greek Cypriots will not budge or compromise.