Time to consider the Kosovo model for Cyprus
The Cyprus “hop-on-hop-off” talks have been continuing ever since the first meeting of two great personalities of the eastern Mediterranean island, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf R. Denktaş and Greek Cypriot leader Glafkos Clerides met at a hotel in Beirut in 1968. Has it not become obvious after almost 50 years of inconclusive talks aimed at “reuniting” the island, perhaps time has come to consider some other options?
It is no secret to Cyprus watchers – sounds like bird watchers – that Greek Cypriots want to rehash the 1960 unitary state, when Turkish Cypriots were patched up as the privileged minority and the status quo existed. What is the status quo? When the partnership state collapsed in 1963, Greek Cypriots have usurped the title and took the seat of the Cyprus government while Turkish Cypriots were left out in the cold and cut off from the international community of nations. Greek Cypriots have always believed that if they waited long enough, the exhausted Turkish Cypriot community would beg on its knees for some shade under the Greek-administered Republic of Cyprus flag.
The obsession to achieve “enosis”, meaning union with Greece, was often cited as the prime reason for the Cyprus problem. Now, many analysts claim that enosis has become irrelevant because of the island’s EU membership. Those defending that assertion, indeed at the same time, confess that enosis was achieved under the EU umbrella as both Greece and Cyprus are members of the club while Turkey is out and the EU acquis communautaire is inapplicable in the Turkish Cypriot northern territory. While that is a rather plausible argument, it is a fact as well that EU membership has rendered a resolution of the Cyprus problem even more difficult as it consolidated the Greek Cypriot perception that if it waited long enough, Turks would surrender.
Establishing a federal Cyprus in partnership with Turkish Cypriots has never been a majority-demanded option for Greek Cypriots. Indeed, a federal resolution has always been a “convenient option.”
Similarly, federation has never been the first option for Turkish Cypriots, of course excluding some leftist groups. While an independent state has been the demand of the majority, unlike the majority enosis aspiration among Greek Cypriots, union with Turkey has been a minority demand among Turkish Cypriots.
Because of Ankara’s pressure, and the world refusing to accept its statehood aspirations, as well as a unity with Turkey remaining as the demand of the minority, a federal resolution emerged in northern Cyprus as a “convenient option” as well.
However the difference between the two sides is that Greek Cypriots have never remained loyal to that “convenient option” and even at times when they were talking about federation, they continued demanding a unitary state, while Turkish Cypriots, as they did in the 2004 vote on the U.N.-plan, repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to a compromised resolution, even if it might not be its first preference.
Despite all the accusations of opponents and some sharp criticism from the media – including this writer – Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı walked several extra miles, compromised on many fundamental demands of his people. Concessions and compromises he agreed to deliver were so big that in the absence of EU primary law protection of the derogations within a short period of time, the very existence of the Turkish identity might seriously be endangered. Yet Akıncı walked that road. Still, just because the recent past of the island, the atrocities Greek Cypriots committed against Turkish Cypriots, Akıncı could not deliver the end of the 1960 guarantee system and thus Turkey’s guarantor status, the latest 19-month exercise has as well hit the rocks.
If the guarantee agreement is to be activated if Turkish Cypriots are attacked again and if Greek Cypriots had no intention of attempting to engage in some genocidal acts against Turkish Cypriots again, why are they so obsessed with Turkey’s continued guarantee? Obviously they want to make Cyprus a second Crete, an island cleansed of Turks. If Greek Cypriots were against foreign troops, why are they not taking action against the British presence on the island, the imperial residue?
Can it be an unforgivable fault for Turkish Cypriots to refuse to become some sort of Palestinians of Cyprus? Is it not clear that without Turkey’s guarantee, any Cyprus resolution will be short-lived and bloodshed on the island will be resumed, which was stopped previously when Turkey intervened in 1974.
The very fact that since the 1974 Turkish intervention and the subsequent 1975 exchange of population deal that created the present bi-communality and bi-zonality situation, peace and progress on both sides of the Cyprus green line clearly demonstrates that there is at least one more settlement option, which is federation on the island. If a unitary state could last only three years but in two separated areas, why mess things up now? For what?
Thus, time perhaps has come to at least consider a Kosovo model for northern Cyprus. Perhaps Ankara must seriously consider lifting its objection to the recognition of the Turkish Cypriot state as friendly and brother countries. Even if annexation might be brushed aside, northern Cyprus perhaps should try to attain the status of a self-administering area under Turkish mandate.
Perhaps it is high time to start considering options other than a federal settlement.