The modalities of new Cyprus talks
The modality of a negotiations process becomes all the more important when the issue to be discussed is the Cyprus problem, an issue that has defied an army of negotiators, chief negotiators, interlocutors, mediators and facilitators over the past 45 years since they first started in Lebanon in 1968. How many times since that first encounter have the two communities on the island lost golden opportunities for a resolution? Irrespective, since the 1963 December start of the Greek Cypriot campaign to cleanse the island of Turkish Cypriots, there has been a Cyprus problem with no end in sight.
Diagnosis is half of treatment but in the absence of a sound diagnosis there cannot be treatment. Thus, diagnosis of a problem is of crucial importance. One reason for the failure of the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem is the absence of a sound diagnosis. What is the Cyprus problem? Is it the 1974 Turkish intervention and subsequent continued military presence on the island? Is it the Greek Cypriot attempt to exterminate all Turkish Cypriots in any way possible? Is it Turkey’s ambition to continue to have a presence on the island? Is it Turkey’s wider interests in the eastern Mediterranean? Is it the megalo-idea utopias of Greece and Greek nationalists? No one can sit back and comfortably claim that any one of these and many other factors did not contribute to the Cyprus issue becoming gangrene, such an intractable tumor. Seeing some reasons and denying some others will not help anyone wishing to see a resolution. It is high time to be realistic enough to acknowledge all these nasty components which together created and aggravated the problem into gangrene.
If, while talking, peace negotiators of the two sides forget that the historical background is just a reference point and bury the peoples of the island in history, there will never ever be a way out. What the Greek Cypriots did to Turkish Cypriots between 1963 and 1974 cannot be forgotten. Nor could Greek Cypriots forget the trauma of the 1974 Turkish intervention. Shall we stay at those respective points and not move ahead? Shall we be the victims of our security obsessions? Or, should we remember what was lived, take measures that will prevent such tragedies from being lived again and go ahead to forge a common future?
It took decades for Turkish Cypriots to transform from a “society living in history” to become people living the day. It was perhaps a product of their frustration being cut off from the rest of humanity – thanks to Greek Cypriot imposed international embargoes and boycotts – or perhaps a result of disappointment of being in limbo, unable to see their own future. In the 2004 referendum on the UN peace plan, Turkish Cypriots abandoned their accustomed security-obsessed position and voted for a common future in the EU with their Greek Cypriot partners. In a simultaneous separate referendum, Greek Cypriots voted against that plan and indeed to the notion of having a common future with Turkish Cypriots. Why? Because they did not have any motivation – a failure of their political leaders – to consider a common future with Turkish Cypriots in their common homeland.
Since the 2004 fiasco, all efforts for a new deal between the two peoples have failed so far. Why? Because, like the 2004 Annan plan, in all the initiatives the targeted aim is there: an EU-member bi-zonal and bi-communal federal Cyprus. However, in none of the initiatives was there either a timetable for the talks, nor a deadline and a punitive clause that would deter either side from derailing the process. Thus, Demetris Hristofias played to the tribunes, wasted four precious years. Nikos Anastasiades is playing to the tunes of the “sunk economy” song so far, trying to escape from comprehensive talks.
The fundamental modality of Cyprus talks should be political will with capable leadership to make his people, irrespective of how bitter it might be, the best deal that is available.