The mood of Turkish Cypriots
The resumption of peacemaking diplomacy on Cyprus has apparently pleased most Turkish Cypriots, though there are some skeptics who have started crying foul and complaining that Turkey – if not the left-dominated coalition government in northern Cyprus – has sold them out. Of course, I am not talking about a scientific poll as since the landmark resumption of the process, little time has passed. But spending a few hours on the phone and contacting various segments of the Turkish Cypriot people might help give an unscientific perception of what people might be thinking about the newly resumed Cyprus talks.
First of all, most people believe a resolution of the Cyprus problem will be in the best interest of both peoples on the island. As was demonstrated in the 2004 referenda on the failed U.N. peace plan, Turkish Cypriots have been pro-resolution anyhow. But could Greek Cypriots change their mind and support a settlement this time? When it came to that question, most pro-settlement Turkish Cypriots start talking in frustration, complaining of a lack of leadership and motivation on the Greek Cypriot side.
Still, if the process manages to produce a just deal based on mutual confidence and if the main political parties do not betray peace as the communist AKEL did in 2004, there is belief that Greek Cypriots may indeed vote for a settlement as well.
Irrespective of whether one is a skeptic or pro-settlement, however, the success of the process apparently depends not on the diplomatic skills of the leaders or negotiators or the existence of a political will, but rather on the continued engagement of the United States. Naturally, people saw that after almost five months of empty talk, the Greek Cypriot side agreed to say “yes” to a joint statement that was almost identical to the one originally suggested by the U.N. intermediaries, but only after the Americans intervened. But can American involvement suffice to make the process a successful one to finish off the 50-year-old Cyprus problem and deliver the world a new Cypriot federation?
Most people I spoke with agreed U.S. involvement was instrumental in getting the talks resumed, and probably without the Americans pressing so much, it would have been impossible to force Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades to agree to the talks, let alone accept a joint statement answering most of Turkish Cyprus’ key demands. If the U.S. really wants a settlement and if the British assist the U.S. in forcing the two sides into a deal, a Cyprus accord might be possible. Of course, the people this writer spoke to were of the opinion that the gas and oil potential off the eastern Mediterranean island and a water pipeline to Cyprus that Turkey has started constructing were new elements necessitating a resolution.
Skeptics, on the other hand, continue to believe even if there might be some development in the sovereignty and power-sharing areas, when it comes to the property and refugee issues or when Greek Cypriots start insisting they should have Morphou, the Karpassia peninsula and the now-deserted Varosha suburb of Famagusta or when they insist on the “return of all refugees,” that will be the “end of this final episode of the Cyprus peacemaking game.”
Frustrated with the absence of a timetable, Turkish Cypriots are apparently hoping that at some stage, Greek Cypriots will be told (by the Americans) there will be a price for insisting on obstinacy and torpedoing the prospect of a resolution.
The Greek Cypriot side? It’s apparently very much confused and primarily trying to handle a serious coalition crisis over the terms of the resumption of the Cyprus talks.