The need for public diplomacy
This time, it appears that a Cyprus settlement might soon become discernible. Washington’s involvement or providing very strong support to the United Nations mediation efforts has helped so far in getting a joint statement built on “constructive ambiguity.”
Legal opinions obtained by the Greek Cypriot side underline, for example, the statement issued after the resumed talks between Nikos Anastasiades and Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, the two communal leaders, did not include either virgin birth (parthenogenesis) of the federation to be established, or separate residual sovereignty, for the constituent states. On the other hand, expert evaluations conducted by northern Cyprus and Ankara underscore that the new federation was described in the joint text as a parthenogenesis one, as it was stated that it will come into being with a Cyprus accord. Obviously, there is also no question in the north about the inclusion of residual sovereign powers for the two constituent states. Is this not what is aimed at with constructive ambiguity? These issues will of course become trivial anyhow, should the new federation be established and succeeds in becoming an effective joint government.
The negotiation process has just resumed and the negotiators of the two sides have not yet started focusing on core subjects. Next week the two negotiators, for the first time, will be making cross visits to Ankara and Athens. For the first time, Greece will be receiving a representative of the Turkish Cypriot people and that reception will be at the same level and status of the reception Ankara will be extending to the representative of the Greek Cypriots. Of course, apart from the symbolic importance, such a visit might not carry any value. Still, symbolism does matter. The Greek Cypriots will achieve their perennial aim of “meeting with Ankara,” while the Turkish Cypriots will be officially received and their existence as a separate people will be officially acknowledged by Greece.
It appears that the American involvement or facilitation of the Cyprus talk process will not only continue, but might even be elevated soon to the vice president or secretary of state level. Americans prodding the two sides to a bitter compromise settlement might soon create some sensitivity, particularly in the nationalist segments on Cyprus, both in Turkey and in Greece. Rumors, for example, that Americans were pressuring Turkish Cypriots to hand over the deserted Varosha as a bonus of the resumption of talks and as a confidence building element have already created some nerves in northern Cyprus. Talking about territory ought to come at the very end of the negotiations, just before leaders go to a five-party conference with Greece, Turkey and Britain to discuss the fate of the 1960 guarantee system. Why should the Turkish Cypriots hand over Varosha before an overall deal is reached? Such attitudes might kill hopes for peace.
Talking of a Cyprus deal within two-three months is, of course, great, and hopefully talks might process quickly. But in our interview, Foreign Minister Özdil Nami asked how it would be possible to achieve such a rapid accord with leaders meeting once a month? Obviously, the Cyprus talks need to be accelerated and tied to a schedule with a penalty clause, as Turkish Cypriots are fed up with being left in limbo for the past half century. In the north, President Eroğlu has the luxury of boasting that whatever accord he reaches his people will embrace it in a national referendum. Can there be a more pro-settlement statement than that? However, there is need for a massive public diplomacy drive to explain to the Greek Cypriots what peace would bring to them, and thus merit their support for a resolution. If the two peoples really want a settlement, then negotiators may find it far easier to reach a bitter compromise deal.