Tough challenges in a crucial week

Tough challenges in a crucial week

Two important events will begin today. In Ankara, the Turkish parliament will convene to start the second round of deliberations on a constitutional reform package that the opposition claims will convert Turkey into an authoritarian country, while in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, the Cyprus conference that started last week will resume for technical talks at the level of undersecretaries and deputy undersecretaries. Both will have long-term impacts whichever way they might go.

In Ankara, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appear confident about attaining the required 330 votes or 2/3 majority of the 550-seat parliament, thanks to support from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). If that is achieved, Turks might go to a referendum on the reform as early as April 2.

In Mont Pelerin, however, the situation might not be as promising. Not only do the two communal leaders face very strong domestic opposition to the steps they intend to take for a compromise resolution to the almost half-century-old intercommunal talks, but there are also walls of distrust, animosity and rivalry that extend well beyond the island to include Turkey and Greece as well. Or was it the perennial rivalry and animosity between Turkey and Greece – despite the strong bonds of friendship between the two peoples that were revived after the 1999 killer quakes – which has been holding the island hostage? Most probably the second, yet the recent history of the island was so traumatic for both peoples that repeated efforts so far have showed what a mammoth effort is needed to strike a deal to share power, sovereignty and territory on the island within a federal framework.

The 1974 Turkish intervention and continued presence on the island engendered Turcophobia among Greek Cypriots. The 1974 trauma and the wounds it opened in the communal sociology of Greek Cypriots cannot be ignored if a settlement is to be found to the Cyprus problem. But the Greek Cypriot rejection of Turkey’s presence and the demand for an end to the 1960 guarantee system that facilitated Turkey’s 1974 intervention cannot be brushed aside if a federal resolution is ever going to be achieved.

But, unfortunately things are not that easy or clear as 1974 was not the cause of the Cyprus problem but just a by-product of it. If Greek Cypriots had not wanted to usurp the rights of Turkish Cypriots through a constitutional amendment in 1962; if they had not started a campaign to annihilate their Turkish Cypriot partners in 1963 and if they had not unilaterally taken over the partnership state in 1964 and left Turkish Cypriots without a state, there would not be a Cyprus problem in the first place. If Greece had not incited and aided a coup in 1974 to achieve “enosis” – the union of Cyprus with Greece – Turkey would not have intervened.

The 1963-1974 sufferings of Turkish Cypriots produced a very difficult communal sociology as well. Under no conditions will Turkish Cypriots accept an end to Turkey’s guarantee for their security and well-being, particularly after enjoying, despite all the hardships produced by international isolation, continuous security since 1974. Would it be possible to stop Greek Cypriot attacks on Turkish Cypriots if Turkey was not on the island as a deterrent power?

How will the guarantee problem be resolved? If Turkey’s presence and continuation of the guarantee system are on the “definitely unacceptable” list of the Greek Cypriots and the very same items are on the “sine qua non” list of Turkish Cypriots, compromising or finding a mutually acceptable resolution is impossible. There is an absolute need for a miracle to solve the gargantuan problem.

Obviously, Greek Cypriots still cannot understand why Turkish Cypriots are so obsessed with Turkey’s continued guarantor status and presence on the island. To this day, they have never officially accepted the atrocities they committed either. How will a resolution be possible if it is still so difficult for Greek Cypriots to concede the crimes they committed? If they cannot walk such a road of honesty, how could Turkish Cypriots trust them after a settlement? Wouldn’t Turkey’s withdrawal there be some idiotic undertaking again? Would the European Union serve as a shield? Has the EU managed to solve any problem so far?

The guarantee issue was just one of the main issues impeding a settlement over the past number of decades. It was also one of the reasons that the five-party summit failed to produce a landmark deal on Jan. 12, agreeing instead to form a “technical committee,” which is convening on Jan. 18. Will the committee manage to come up with something tangible? As long as there is no change in the positions and perceptions of the two sides, no way…

And of course, there is the thorny territorial aspects as well as the property issue, the number of refugees to return north, voting rights, the cross-voting sham – the list of contentious subjects continues on…
Shall we still be optimistic about a Cyprus deal anytime soon?