The difference between parties in Cyprus is relatively greater than the difference between black and white. Neither could a pragmatist businessman such as George Vasiliu on the Greek side, nor the recent Mustafa Akıncı’s “solution at any cost“ statement bordering a defeatist approach, succeeded in establishing sufficient convergence in the positions of the two sides.
Of course, it can be said that “if there was a president who had a better vision in the Greek part during the Akıncı period and was willing to make peace, it might have been different.” Would it have been different if instead of late Rauf Denktaş, Akıncı was heading the Turkish side at talks during the Vasiliu period? Vasiliu, who was probably in charge with the support of Akel, would throw the ball out of the game, just as Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has done many times. Perhaps there will be critics of these statements as “You are prejudiced,” but the history of the Cyprus negotiations since 1968 is an exemplary witness to what I am saying.
The main position of one side is to give the Turkish Cypriots as little communal but as broad personal rights as possible, and to move the existing singular state structure, regardless of name, to a federal status with some cosmetic constitutional amendments. Patching the Turkish Cypriots into the Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus as a minority is the focus of Greek Cypriot politics, regardless of who is in power. Territory, property ownership, troops and mainland settlers issues, of course, are important, but the Greek Cypriots may be more generous in these areas if the Turkish Cypriots accept minority status. Who knows, maybe someone could even develop formulas like the American Acheson plan of 1963-1964, which envisaged giving Turkey the opportunity to have British bases like base on the island.
For the Turkish side, the negotiation process, which began to defend partnership rights, continued with autonomous governance, cantonal arrangements and developed over time on the wrongs of the Greek side -- first a stance closer to a federal, then closer to a confederation, and now a two-state solution position. The main issue of disagreement in Greek and Turkish Cypriot positions has always been the ownership of sovereignty issue right from the very beginning. While the Turkish Cypriots evolved from a position of “equality in sovereignty” to “sovereign partnership” and even “equal two states,” Greeks consolidated a position based on an obsession as manifested in the latest remarks of Archbishop Chrysostomos that “majority and minority cannot be equal; Turks should settle for minority rights.” This position consolidated so much in time that because of this rigidity, it handicapped the capability of a compromise settlement by any Greek Cypriot leader. In fact, this is a summary of the 2017 Crans-Montana process and what has happened since.
Even the propaganda of “the solution will start a period of cooperation and common prosperity not only for the parties on the island, Turkey and Greece but also for the whole Mediterranean” frequently voiced by both Western think tanks and mediators have not changed the positions of the parties. The unilateral Greek hydrocarbon adventures have been responded to on the ground by the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, and the involvement of France and the EU exacerbated the current intractable situation. With Germany’s involvement, the situation improved from the “considering sanctions” stage to a “positive agenda” climate in Turkey-EU relations has, in a sense, initiated an undeclared moratorium on hydrocarbon activities.
The recent New York contacts also showed once again that it is not possible to start a new Cyprus negotiation process from this day to tomorrow. Even if someone uses pressure to start the process as seen in the past, there is clearly no chance of success. Therefore, the ways of softening the positions of the two sides should be explored, and instead of insisting on the tried one, perhaps, it is necessary to prepare for an understanding with smaller and mutually beneficial cooperation steps that will carry the climate into a win-win approach with bitter concessions in the negotiations when they commence.
How great an opportunity will it be to use the hydrocarbon resources that the Turkish side has proposed many times before for the benefit of the two peoples on the island through an ad-hoc arrangement, commission, or company under the supervision and management of a U.N. agency or another trusted international institution?
Let’s not forget, it’s impossible to share something non-existent. Sharing the profit or resources is a requirement of reason. Sharing will not just make the two peoples on the island, Turkey and Greece more interdependent, but also help them achieve greater steps of development and welfare.
Let us hear Mevlana’s voice from across the ages: “Yesterday is left in the yesterday, my dear. We have to say something new today!”