Shall we go back to the 1960 system?
Years ago, the Greek Cypriot side proposed a return to the 1960 system. In the spring of 1994, as is often the case, there was a deadlock in the Cyprus talks. When I moved from Ledra Palace barricade to the Greek part for an interview with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidis, a new arrival in Greek Cypriot politics at the time, I had many questions in mind but I did not plan to ask questions about a return to the 1960 system.
At that time, the Turkish Cypriots could only cross into the Greek Cypriot region with special permission. As was accustomed, an officer assigned by the Public Information Office (PIO) of the Greek side was accompanying me for my interview appointment with Kasoulidis. At the border gate, though I had an appointment, I managed to cross into the Greek zone only after the PIO officer questioned me in detail, and unfortunately, did not hesitate in insulting me for coming from “the underdeveloped Turkish region.” Only after she was satisfied with my answers, we proceeded to the Foreign Ministry for the interview.
Both at the entrance of the building and on the door of Kasoulidis, the writings were all only in Greek and English. Thus, I was compelled to make an addition to the questions I prepared. As a matter of fact, when Kasoulidis said during the interview that he was the minister of the Turkish Cypriots and that the government represented all the people and land of the island, I asked the question naively. “Mr. Kasoulidis, you say that you are both the foreign minister of the Turkish Cypriots. Despite the founding treaties and the constitution, only Greek and English are written on your door and at the entrance of the building. It appears you have long forgotten that the Turkish language is one of the three official languages of the island. It shows you have forgotten the Turks, which are under the founding agreements and the constitution are one of the two equal founding communities of the Cyprus Republic.”
Kasoulidis, a “cunning fox,” was always calm and blushing, as the late President Rauf Denktas described him. I could not understand why he was so shocked. Was it because he was messed up as he forgot a fundamentally important detail, or because I noticed that anomaly? “The next time you come, you will see that this important deficiency has been addressed. I didn’t notice that before; you’re right.” He was a cunning man. How useful the 1960 system could be? He claimed that Vice President Dr. Fazil Kucuk and Denktas’ “separatist” programs, as well as Turkey’s “desire to have more say on the island,” were the reasons for the collapse of the 1960 system. He must have acute amnesia as he appeared to have totally forgotten the genocidal attacks and the pogroms the Greek Cypriots unleashed on the Turkish Cypriots.
In the following years, as George Vassiliou warned me, sometimes I forget that I am just a journalist and not a negotiator, and that day as well, I found myself in a heated discussion defending the Turkish Cypriot case. It was an unnecessary, meaningless and inconclusive discussion. It’s youth, sometimes mistakes like that are made. But at the end of that discussion, Kasoulidis said: “Mr. Kanlı, tell Denktas. If he says that the 1960 system collapsed because there was no bi-zonality - now there is de facto bi-zonality - we will welcome him and the Turkish Cypriots’ return to the parliament, the government, without touching the de-facto territorial situation, dividing line, or even military issues. Once they return to the 1960 system, we may start discussing the remaining issues.”
Even though I didn’t quite understand what he meant, I felt we were at a very important point. I had a coffee appointment with Nicos A. Rolandis, the foreign minister of the Spyros Kyprianou period who became a political outcast when he quit his position in protest of the Kyprianou policies at the talks. The PIO officer accompanied me there as well. I didn’t even know what I was talking about with Rolandis as my brain was working overtime on what Kasoulidis suggested. The wolf politician noticed my situation and asked me about it. When I told him what Kasoulidis said, he burst into laughter. “He thinks he’s so smart, and Turks are that fool,” he said.
When I moved to the Turkish part, I went directly to the presidency. The late President Denktaş called me “Delikanlı” when he was in a good mood. “Come, Delikanlı, let’s enjoy a bit the spring sun,” he said. Walking through the backyard among the flowers, I passed on a suggestion to him of Kasoulidis. “These guys think they’re cunning,” he said. They’re trying to create an artificial agenda. At the time when we were prepared to accept far less, they only awarded us minority rights. You go and tell him that the only possible solution on Cyprus can only be one based on the full equality of the two states, the two peoples on the island and continued Turkish guarantee, including the right for unilateral intervention. They only dream about going back to the time before 1974.”
I think the answer to Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, who now says let’s go back to 1960, is no different. That page has already been closed.