Trilateral meeting for Cyprus, finally...
Who managed to convince the Greek Cypriot leadership to drop its intransigence and agree to meet with the Turkish Cypriot leader in the presence of the U.N. secretary-general? Was it the Americans, or the British, or combined brinkmanship? Or did Nikos Anastasiades receive a heavenly message that insisting on his obsessive and rejectionist superiority complex was torpedoing the “peace-loving Niko” image he had been so happy with?
Whatever it was that helped him overcome that psychological impediment and agree to meet with Mustafa Akıncı as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was certainly very important. Even if no tangible outcome was likely to emerge from that encounter, (details of the meeting were unavailable at the time of writing), the very fact that it took place was very important.
Why? It has been a perennial handicap of the Greek Cypriot side to stay away from any action that might help the Turkish Cypriots give an image that they were not, are not, and would not be subordinates - or “subjects” - of a government composed entirely of Greeks. Since the March 1964 U.N. resolution that considered – because of the “force majeure” conditions of the time created by the Greek Cypriots – the Turkish Cypriot-absent government on the island to be the legitimate Cyprus government, Greek Cypriots have been eager not to “dilute” that perception. Meeting with a Turkish Cypriot leader in the presence of a third party, for example, was long considered something that could consolidate the “equality” of the two administrations on Cyprus and thus would dilute the “sole legitimate government of entire island” status of the Greek Cypriot government. That government was in violation of the 1960 founding agreements, as well as the constitution of the state, but who cared? If the Turkish wing of the state was left out and the world agreed to go ahead with recognizing the all-Greek Cypriot administration as Cyprus’ government, why bother to share power and sovereignty with the Turkish Cypriots?
This is why throughout the past decades the Greek Cypriot tactic has always been to waste as much time as possible, so that the Turkish Cypriots would end up feeling exhausted because of international isolation and Turkey would end up feeling fed up with Cyprus because of the impediments it faced internationally over the Cyprus problem. However, since the 2004 separate simultaneous referenda on the so-called “Annan peace plan” - which was overwhelmingly approved by the Turkish Cypriots but “wholeheartedly” rejected by the Greek Cypriots - the global perception has been changing. The world has been waking up to the reality that it was not the Turkish Cypriots but the Greek Cypriots who refused to share power, sovereignty or territory, and who considered themselves the “sole legitimate and absolute owner” of the entire island.
Why did Russia threaten veto, forcing former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to withhold his report on the 2004 referenda accusing Greek Cypriots of deception, dishonesty, and of not wanting a partnership state of any sort? Was it just Greek Orthodox solidarity? Was it the solidarity of the money laundering club? Was it because of Russia’s strategic calculations in the Eastern Mediterranean? Or were the Americans and the British – who knew better than anyone else all the delicate details of the Cyprus issue – so unaware of who has been torpedoing resolution prospects since the 1960s?
Despite all efforts to create a perception that a Cyprus deal is imminent, the current Cyprus talks are not going well. Apart from the “socializing” efforts of the two leaders – which has been a success so far – there has not been much progress on any of the major outstanding issues. The progress cited by well-wishers regarding property, for example, have been so remote that hopes have been built on billions of dollars due to be provided generously by the Americans, British or the Germans, so that those who cannot be reinstituted or have their claims settled with property exchanges might be compensated with greenbacks… Whose greenbacks? The greenbacks of the generous donors: The sponsors of peace on Cyprus. But what happened to the 3.5 billion euros Turkey was promised by the EU to halt the refugees flood to Europe? If the EU has been so reluctant even on such a vital issue for itself, optimists about a “settlement tomorrow with sponsored compensation” scheme should perhaps think again.
In any case, the trilateral meeting outside Cyprus is a good start if rapprochement is to be continued. If the Greek Cypriots have finally come to the conclusion that they are not the only people on Cyprus and there are Turkish Cypriots with equal rights; if they grasp the reality that no one can be fooled with the “reinstitution of individual rights” rhetoric that could turn the Turkish Cypriots into a minority; if they realize that indeed Anastasiades and Akıncı could only be “co-presidents,” not superior or inferior to the other, than perhaps a resolution is not so far away…
But I just don’t see it.