The guarantee system
The guarantees issue is an important and complex dimension of the Cyprus problem. A resolution is almost impossible because of the contradicting security perception of the two peoples of the island.
When Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, the republic was based on a foundation that the two politically equal Cypriot peoples, as well as Turkey and Greece, would have some sort of a “balance,” or to put it better, a “domestic balance” and an “external balance.” The domestic one was between the Greeks and Turks of the island and was built respectively on the notion of a seven to three ratio in political representation, power sharing and in all organs of the state. Besides that, the Turkish Cypriot community, whose members are fewer in number, was given effective veto powers to protect its rights. The Turkish Cypriot vice president, for example, could veto all policy decisions, parliamentary resolutions and executive orders of the president if he believed the principle of equality was breached or through such acts the rights of his people were endangered. On the other hand, special quorum was required regarding the legislation of sensitive subjects regarding security, taxation and such. Three of the nine ministries — one of them defense or interior and the other agriculture — were to always be filled by Turkish Cypriots.
The Cyprus problem started with the Greek Cypriot side trying to change this in 1963 with a constitutional amendment that the Turkish Cypriots opposed to.
The external balance was between Turkey and Greece. With Britain’s suggestion and as a measure against probable Greek attempt to annex the island to Greece, the guarantee agreement was signed, and Turkey, Greece and Britain became guarantors of the 1960 system as well as the territory and sovereignty of Cyprus. For Turkey, guaranteeing Turkish Cypriots’ security was the prime aim of becoming a partner to the accord. Also, together with Cyprus, Turkey and Greece signed an agreement under which the two countries deployed small contingents of military presence on Cyprus. Britain, on the other hand, secured two sovereign bases for itself.
The establishment agreement of the Cyprus Republic, the constitution of Cyprus, the treaties of the guarantee and alliance, and the British bases accord are all elements of agreements that are valid together. If anything happens to one, all the rest cease to exist as well. Thus, talking about the guarantee issue without mentioning the future of the British bases or refusing to accept that, if ever there will be a settlement for a new state to emerge, is just a waste of time.
Turkey’s former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ has recently made an awful comment on a TV channel. He claimed that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı was not authorized to make any proposals for the replacement of the guarantee system with a new one as he was not a party to the agreement. The retired general must be ill-advised on the Cyprus issue, because Turkish Cypriots, as well as Greek Cypriots, were represented in the Cyprus conferences in 1958-1959, making them parties to the Cyprus agreements. But besides that, as the leaders of the two founding partners of the 1960 system and prospective partners of the new state — that’s if there will ever be a partnership state again — Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders ought to be more authorized than anyone else (definitely far better than Başbuğ) to speak on fundamental aspects of the Cyprus issue. Although I agree with Başbuğ that only Cypriots cannot change the guarantee system, which is a multilateral issue involving Greece, Turkey and Britain as well.
On the other hand, at a time when British bases are crucial for Britain, Greece, Russia and France and the U.S. use the Greek Cypriot side through bilateral agreements either with Britain or Greek Cypriots, why would Turkey, a country with the longest shore in the Eastern Mediterranean, leave Cyprus even if there were no Turkish Cypriots living there?