Security in Cyprus cannot be compromised

Security in Cyprus cannot be compromised

Although Cypriots have gradually lost their matriarchal culture due to centuries of patriarchal impositions, mothers and wives remain sacrosanct on the island. In reality, 

They are the real bosses of their families. Are women the reason why strong familial bonds still survive among the Turkish Cypriot people? Or is it rather because of the trauma they suffered at the hands of their Greek Cypriot co-owners of the island? Would the Turkish Cypriots have been able to survive the 1963-1974 period of persistent heinous attacks aimed at totally eliminating them from the island if they did not have a “One for all, all for one” understanding?

The starting point of the Cyprus problem was not the guarantees or Turkey’s military presence in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots who abandoned their homes in 1974 because of the Turkish intervention, or in 1975 within the framework of a U.N.-brokered population exchange, are indeed an important problem. But that migration was just a byproduct of the Cyprus problem, not the core of the problem itself. The division of the island into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south is also not the core of the Cyprus problem. The core of the Cyprus problem has always been the way Greek Cypriots have always believed the entire island belongs only to the “Hellenic race,” with the Turks only coming to the island 500 years ago and somehow forgetting to leave. The Cyprus problem was and still is a problem of co-governance.

In 1962, Archbishop Makarios was not joking when he suggested making the so-called 13-point constitutional amendments to then Cypriot Vice President Dr. Fazıl Küçük. Those changes aimed to eradicate the partnership rights of the Turks in governance, in order to achieve “effective governance.” He later carried the same offer to Turkey. After he was rejected by both Küçük and the Ankara government, the Akritas plan – a plan to exterminate all Turkish Cypriots – was put into force on the night of Dec. 21, 1963. As a result, if there is to be a Cyprus settlement today, the first requirement is to find a way to ensure the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in governance of the island on the basis of political equality with the Greek Cypriots. This is a sine qua non for any settlement.

A second requirement is finding a way to guarantee the security and wellbeing of Turkish Cypriots so that they could neither be expelled from the partnership governance – as they were in March 1964 – nor could they be attacked again. The 1963-1974 attacks that Turkish Cypriots were subjected to were carried out by those who were against a partnership government and wanted to unite the island with Greece. As President Mustafa Akıncı has conceded, the recent advance of neo-nationalists publicly vowing to “drink Turkish Cypriot blood” clearly demonstrates the need to have the 1960 guarantee system as a deterring element to such fascist groups. 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met earlier this week with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades for talks ahead of the Nov. 20 resumption of the U.N.-backed peace talks at Mont Pelerin, Switzerland. Progress has so far been made in the territory and property chapters, though the thorny guarantees issue remains to be discussed in a five-party conference. 

Naturally, Tsipras, like Anastasiades, has been focused on territory and property, referring to the return of Greek Cypriot refugees to their pre-1974 properties. They are also focused on territorial concessions the Turkish side must make in order to buy some degree of participation in governance of the island.

The first round of the Mont Pelerin talks, the first since the resumption of the last round of U.N.-sponsored Cyprus talks in 2015 following Mustafa Akıncı’s election as the Turkish Cypriot president, were held between Nov. 7 and 11 and then postponed until Nov. 20 upon the request of Anastasiades. According to an official U.N. statement, the two sides made “significant progress” during the five days of negotiations. However, they still apparently remain far apart, particularly on the territorial adjustments as well as property issues. On the security guarantee subject there has not yet been any exchange of formal proposals.

Naturally, Greek Cypriots have been focusing on the territorial adjustments and property chapters, as well as the number of Greek Cypriots who will be permitted to resettle in northern Turkish Cypriot areas. Governance and security guarantees remain the prime concern of the Turkish Cypriots.

As one of the instigators of the Cyprus problem, it was odd to recently hear from the Greek prime minister say that in any settlement the “anachronistic system of guarantees must be scrapped and the full withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island must be secured. These are red lines for Greece and [Greek] Cyprus.”

So Mr. Tsipras can go his way together with Anastasiades if they want. We will not walk that road. Recent experiences and the surge in the far-right in southern Cyprus remind us that under no condition will we compromise on security, nor will we accept Turkey removing its guarantee shield away from the Turkish Cypriots.