The Cyprus guarantees problem

The Cyprus guarantees problem

Probably excluding the academic-turned Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and a minority of like-minded other politicians from all ideologies, particularly conservatives, Greece appears to have washed its hands of Cyprus. How could Greece continue playing an important role after the July 15, 1974, coup it engineered that opened the doors of the island to Turkey’s intervention? Yet, before any important decision, whoever is in the seat of president of the Greek Cypriot state, visiting the land of the Acropolis and obtaining – if not full support – half-hearted consent from the top of the political scene in Athens has been the most popular sport since Makarios’ times.

Still, up until the most recent times, Greece was never a vociferous player in the Cyprus peacemaking game.

 Meeting and discussing a “national perspective” with the Greek Cypriot leadership and defending that position on all platforms was generally the interest of the entire political leadership in Greece. Naturally, the ingredients Athens was putting into such talks and who played what role regarding the development of a “national Cyprus strategy” were issues shaped by the time element, as well as the personality and political power of the person occupying the seat of premier in Athens. For example, in 2004, just before the vote in Cyprus on the so-called Annan Peace Plan, a government changed in Athens – as well as in Greek Cyprus.

 The new Greek government led by a premier unwilling to take any responsibility just did not have the courage to support the plan despite strong support for the plan from the preceding government. What was the role of the vanished enthusiasm in Athens in Greek Cypriot’s overwhelmingly “Oxi” (No) in the simultaneous referenda in 2004 on the plan?

Obviously, no Greek government has ever abandoned Greek Cypriots. However, since the time of the colonels’ junta, this was the first time the Greek government had started putting forward conditions for a resolution to the Cyprus problem. Well, it might be argued that since Greece, together with Turkey and Britain, has been a guarantor of Cyprus since its independence from Britain, then there ought to be nothing abnormal if it expresses its opinion for the termination of the guarantee system.

In Turkish, we often say “the leg of the goose is not like that” when someone tries to make an issue with some distorted details. First of all, the Treaty of Guarantee and of Alliance is part and parcel of a web of accords that brought to life the Cypriot Republic. Terminating the guarantee system would mean terminating the entire package of accords and starting from ground zero. Would Greece and Greek Cypriots agree to that?

Last Friday, after a meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy focusing on the Cyprus issue, Kotzias declared that the Greek government and political parties had agreed to support a “rational, effective and functional solution to the Cyprus issue, which means a Cyprus without foreign occupation troops, a Cyprus without guarantees.”

Britain has its own bases on Cyprus. Greece has ethnic, religious and cultural ties with the majority community of Cyprus. Through its special relations with Greek Cypriots, Greece has all its interests in the southern Mediterranean effectively guarded. Why would Turkey accept the termination of guarantees and withdraw from Cyprus? In view of the recent past, the failures of U.N. troops in guarding peace until Turkey came in 1974, why would Turkish Cypriots accept an end to Turkey’s guarantee? Plus, if the far right, which denounces any sort of power sharing with Turkish Cypriots, is on the increase in southern Cyprus – as was seen most lately in the municipal vote on Dec. 18 – a federal settlement would need Turkey’s deterrence more than ever. Furthermore, if Greek Cypriots have no intention of butchering Turkish Cypriots, why then worry about the Turkish guarantee?

Furthermore, semantics have always been important in diplomacy, more so in the Cyprus peacemaking process. What is a “rational solution” on Cyprus? What is the meaning of an “effective and functional solution?”

An academic of Kotzias’ capability must have an idea of the connotations of the words he used regarding a settlement on Cyprus. For example, a “rational solution” might mean transforming the Turkish Cypriots into a peculiar minority of the Greek Cypriot occupied Cypriot Republic under the guise of compatibility with the EU acquis communitaire. That was indeed one of the reasons why the Cyprus issue has not been resolved over the past five decades since the intercommunal talks started first at a Beirut hotel in 1968. Since then, Turkish Cypriots have repeatedly made it clear that they would not accept a minority status and that their desire is to have a new state co-owned by the two people of the island on the basis of “full political equality” and along the “bi-zonality and bi-communality” principles as agreed in the 1975 and 1977 high-level agreements.

As regards “effective and functional governance,” on the other hand, Cyprus suffered immense trauma to halt the obsessive desire of Archbishop Makarios and those who wanted to convert the Cypriot Republic from an effective federation into a Greek Cypriot state, if not a province of Greece through Enosis (union with Greece). That is the very reason Turkish Cypriots are so obsessed today on political equality, and that is the back story to why Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı declared that if there was no rotating presidency, there would be no Cyprus deal. For effective governance, Turkish Cypriot rights cannot be compromised.