Time for UN envoy to wake up to Cypriot games

Time for UN envoy to wake up to Cypriot games

Over the past more-than-half-a-century of the history of Cyprus peacemaking, Greek Cypriots have been applying a rather intriguing tactic: Never accept anything, but pretend to. It takes years for international mediators to discover the mental setup of Greek Cypriots and often they start getting a realistic picture only after they are ordered to pack up and move on.

If, let’s say, from Hugo Gobi’s time (1980-1984) till Alexander Downer’s recent term, the post-Cyprus duty assessments of the United Nations special envoys are to be considered, there are plenty of signs about how late they were in realizing the “as if negotiating” or “as if talking federation” tactics of the Greek Cypriots.

This week, legendary Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş was commemorated on the third anniversary of his move to eternity. Once he explained to this writer the mentality of the Greek Cypriots with an interesting analogy: “You demand a sack of potatoes. Greek Cypriots give you a dirty potato sack, empty. Until you discover that you just received an empty sack, they convince everybody that they gave you what you wanted, but you are still objecting.” It was an interesting remark and initially I just could not understand what Denktaş was saying, or what was the correlation between a potato sack and a federation.

“We very much wanted them accept a federal resolution believing we would have a more efficient share in governance, more security and a chance to look into the future with confidence. They said they agreed to a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation in 1977, for decades still trying to understand what is in the federation sack they agreed to. It is empty!” Denktaş added, and I understood.

All through the Gambari process (July 8, 2006 - June 2012) the Greek Cypriot side insisted that property issues must be resolved in line with the wishes of “first owners” because the issue is a “matter of individual property right.” The Turkish side, however, insisted that the issue must be resolved through establishing and applying a set of criteria, because the matter is related to several other factors besides individual property rights - including the security dimension, as well as the bi-zonality and bi-communality principles. Eventually, U.N. mediators declared “eureka” and came to the northern Turkish Cypriot side, saying the Greek Cypriots have agreed to tackle the issue through a set of criteria.

That appeared to be great news, but moments later when the parcel was opened and the Greek Cypriot position was read, there was total disappointment: The first criteria that the Greeks were demanding was for individual property rights to be the first criteria to be adhered to. Changing the packet did not mean much; the mentality was the same.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Cyprus Adviser, Espen Barth Eide, was rather upbeat when he started his last round of talks with the two sides on the island to overcome the latest deadlock over the Mediterranean hydrocarbon riches. The Greek Cypriot leadership was conditioning its return to the talks, from which it withdrew in October in protest at Turkey issuing a NAWTEX and sending the Barbaros seismological research vessel off Cyprus – to Turkey pulling back its ships, declaring that it would not “repeat bullying again.” The Turkish Cypriots, however, were saying that in the wake of unilateral Greek Cypriot drilling in the disputed exclusive economic zone, the Turkish research ship was dispatched there at their request in order to reiterate their partnership rights. For the Turkish Cypriots, this issue could be resolved either through Greek Cypriots agreeing to make the gas issue a matter in the talks, or agreeing to a moratorium in gas exploration until a settlement.

Eide rushed to the Turkish Cypriots this week shouting “eureka” again and explained that the Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades has accepted that the gas issue could be discussed in the talks. He missed, however, a key addition to Anastasiades’ statement: The Greek Cypriot leader saİd that after everything was discussed and resolved and the negotiations complete handling the maps – that is, the territory of the two federated states was finalized – the natural resources and how they could be shared could be discussed between the two sides. Eide missed the heinous trick there: Anastasiades will discuss the fate of the pregnancy at the baby’s birthday party.

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Meanwhile, Turkey is currently going through very difficult days. Intolerance has reached dangerous dimensions. A newspaper was attacked by a nationalist mob because a website believed to belong to it ran material considered by Kemalists as “defamatory.” Another newspaper was first cordoned off by police and its distribution – before the paper was printed – was sought to be prevented. Later a mob attacked the newspaper because it reprinted material from the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, considered by Islamists “blasphemous.” Worse, the prime minster, who participated in the Paris march condemning the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo indirectly backed the attack on the newspaper, saying that publishing such cartoons was “provocative” and tantamount to inviting an attack.

Can someone remind the prime minister that in a democratic society there ought to be no taboos? It has been demonstrated once again that anything that is not to the liking of the state or nationalist groups cannot exist in this country; they it must be stifled either through persuasion or fear or by putting people with such opinions behind bars.

We call the game we’re playing "democracy" and say we’re a free and “advanced” democratic society with “exemplary freedom of the press.”