Selective ignorance

Selective ignorance

A resolution cannot be an easy task. Some 50 years of intercommunal talks underscore what an uphill road might be ahead for all those who flocked to the Swiss winter resort town of Crans-Montana for the Cyprus conference. No one could challenge U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’s remark that “some sensitive and difficult issues remain to be resolved ... there is still a lot of work to be done. [However] a clear understanding emerged of the essential elements of a package that might lead to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.”

What were those “essential elements” that the secretary-general mentioned? This may become a five-million-dollar question, as selective ignorance lies at the very roots of the Cyprus problem. A small and mostly leftist and opportunist section of the Turkish Cypriot people, in what is most likely a version of Stockholm Syndrome - or perhaps out of their strong desire to see an end to the obscure situation dangling in the twilight - only have a problem with Turkey’s presence in Cyprus. What happened before the 1974 Turkish intervention belongs to a past they do not want to remember. 

It might be understandable that they wish to forget some of the grievances they were subjected to, as they had suffered so much over such a long period. But it is difficult to understand why most Greek Cypriots have decided to forget the genocidal attacks they unleashed on the Turkish Cypriot people barely two years after the two people of the island established an effective federation – the Cyprus republic – and ended British colonial rule in 1960.

Ignoring the existence of the security dimension or selectively forgetting the genocidal undertakings of the Greek Cypriot people against the Turkish Cypriots from 1963 until Turkey’s eventual intervention in 1974 cannot be conducive to a resolution. But while the security dimension has been at the heart of the Cyprus problem, the intractable puzzle has not been one of security or even refugees, property or related to which community must have how much territory under its control. The Cyprus problem, as Turkish Cypriot parliamentary speaker Sibel Siber reminded us this week, has been a power sharing problem between the Greek and Turkish communities of the island, the relationship between which cannot be one of majority and minority but of two people sharing the same homeland.

Assuming the Cyprus problem is one of security and once Turkey and its troops are “kicked out” of the island, it cannot be a wise approach to believe there will be a Cyprus settlement. Such an approach might be appreciated by Greek Cypriots and some shallow international mediators might believe under the present day international climate that Turkey might be persuaded to withdraw from Cyprus, but unless the root cause of the Cyprus issue, power sharing, is resolved with a mutually acceptable framework, Cyprus might bring Turkey and Greece to war tomorrow. This is not like stealing and clandestinely occupying Turkey’s Aegean islets because the Ankara government has been reluctant to take action against them.

A rotational presidency, effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in future federal governance, and veto-like mechanisms that could serve as some sort of a regenerative braking to prevent the island from being derailed from partnership governance again, are just some of the issues waiting to be dealt with adequately and with an approach conducive to a settlement.

It is now rehearsed that as of July 3 there will be five “packets” for a comprehensive Cyprus resolution. The two sides on the island and the three guarantor powers of the 1960 system will defend their wholesome proposals for a sustainable resolution on the island. Unfortunately, all of those five proposals will be aimed at creating a Cyprus federation, ignoring the fact neither of the two people of Cyprus demand earnestly a federal future with the other community. Such an approach will again be doomed to fail. However, there are other probabilities of a Cyprus resolution including the option of the two-state solution in the European Union.

The U.N. chief has said Cyprus talks saw “slow progress and many outstanding issues are still to be resolved.” Obviously, leaders must demonstrate will for resolution. International actors have been at the necks of the two communal leaders to compromise by “walking the extra mile” and forge a federal settlement.

The reality is the Crans-Montana process has collapsed and it is now desired for the process to be provided with some artificial ventilation through comprehensive settlement packages. Will that work? With selective ignorance, nothing can be achieved. First of all, the Greek Cypriot leader must appear in front of cameras and apologize for the genocidal crimes his people committed on the Turkish Cypriots from 1963 to 1974. After that there might, perhaps, be some hope.