Time for change
According to some pundits, the Cyprus talks process may resume soon “from the point” they collapsed two years ago in Crans-Montana because of Greek Cypriot greed. In the first week of August, the two communal leaders are slated to come together, provided Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades, who fell and fractured his hip, recovers sufficiently enough. At a later date, it is being whispered around that a five-party conference will convene and a new process will kick-off. As the two leaders agreed in principle to the convening of a five-party conference, it appears there are not many stones in the way.
When the bilateral or five-party conference takes place, it is indeed irrelevant provided there is will at both sides’ resolution that requires bitter compromises. If the Turkish Cypriot leader insists he will not discuss anything but a federal resolution and if the Greek Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı refuses to clearly put forward what he understood from decentralization, will he be ready to embrace confederation or even a two-state settlement – as he is often alleged to have said to both Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Akıncı – there will not be much ground for success. Unfortunately, Anastasiades has a bad habit of being double-tongued. He says contradicting things depending on where he talks. While in diplomatic discussions he might be rather encouraging, in press remarks or political statements he appears as stubborn as ever regarding sharing power and sovereignty with Turkish Cypriots.
The first change required is therefore at the leaders’ level. The two must give up obsessions and be prepared for painful compromises if a settlement is indeed wanted. Neither “all mine” approach nor a defeatist surrender that either of the two people of the island might not buy might help a resolution.
The second requirement for change is the Greek Cypriot mentality in the sharing of the resources of Cyprus. Like political sovereignty, the resources of the island belong to the two peoples of Cyprus under the principles of equal partners enshrined in the 1960 agreements with which the island gained its independence from Britain.
The “gunboat diplomacy,” or the dispatch of Turkish drilling ships to waters Turkey considers are within its continental shelf but Greek Cypriots believe are within their exclusive economic zone, demonstrates two things in all clarity: The EEZ of Cyprus cannot solely belong to Greek Cypriots and they cannot continue any activity without getting the consent and giving the share of Turkish Cypriots. Second, Greek Cypriots cannot claim Turkey’s continental shelf as islands cannot have continental shelves. Thus the message is clear: Turkey is determined not to give up its rights and Turkish Cypriot rights. Unless Greek Cypriots undergo a mental change and agree to share the island’s resources with Turkish Cypriot partners, they cannot get anything out.
Thus, even if the federation obsession of Akıncı is eradicated and somehow magically Anastasiades makes up his mind and spells out clearly what kind of a settlement he wants, prerequisite of success of new exercise lies in the capability of the Greek Cypriot side to accept the island is not just a Greek one, but a homeland of the two peoples, Turks and Greeks, on the basis of political equality.