Tselebis’ confessions in the Cyprus talks
Remarks made by Tumazos Tselebis, a former member of the Greek Cypriot negotiations team, confirm in all its bitterness the awkward mindset and greed of the Greek Cypriot leadership. Why and how the Greek Cypriot leader walked out of a deal in Crans Montana in July 2017, despite having received everything he was demanding from Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı, is impossible to understand with reason.
From Tselebis’ remarks it became even clearer that great concessions were made by the Turkish Cypriot side.
1- All along, Turkish Cypriot opponents were criticizing Akıncı for abandoning the “partnership rights” of Turkish Cypriots as well as well as the principle of equality of the two communities of the island. For example, Chelebis confirmed a considerable concession made by Akıncı in regards to the veto right Turkish Cypriots had in the 1960 system. As opposed to the a) veto right at the presidential level exercised by the Turkish Cypriot vice president and b) the requirement of two “yes” votes the majority of three Turkish Cypriot ministers, as confirmed by Akıncı, has relegated the veto right to the “yes” vote of only one Turkish Cypriot minister in the council of ministers.
Thus, the claim of Akıncı that he would not accept anything less than the effective participation of the Turkish Cypriot side in decision-making is just a cover-up of the wholesale defeatist approach.
2- Tselebis confirmed that the Turkish Cypriot side agreed to revisit the 1960 guarantee system 12 years after a deal was reached on the island. Though the Turkish Cypriot people, again, were saved by the Greek Cypriot leader’s greed and uncompromising “zero soldiers, zero guarantee” adamancy, the leaders of Turkey and Greece (as well as Britain) were not invited to Crans Montana for a “final round of talks.”
The refusal of Anastasiades to invite Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras salvaged the Turkish Cypriots and the “big give and take” scenario faltered. The greed of the Greek Cypriot side to have everything for themselves and not share has put sovereignty and governance issues apart; even a pebble of the island with Turkish Cypriots helped once again to kill a wholesale surrender of Akıncı. This situation, however, made it to the so-called Antonio Guterres non-paper. Accepting the Guterres non-paper as a negotiations framework or framework of a deal from this perspective was a declaration of defeat and full surrender. That was indeed what Tselebis confirmed in his confessions. He accused Anastasiades of failing in comprehending what he was offered by the Turkish Cypriot leader. He said the guarantee system was to be abolished, the veto power of Turks and thus the principle of equality would be limited to just one “yes” vote in cabinet, but the Greek Cypriot could not understood what he was offered and abandoned the process.
Indeed, right from the first day after the Crans Montana collapse of the talks the Progressive Party of Working People (Akel) has been rightfully making that assessment.
The Turkish Cypriot side must understand that a revival of the Cyprus talks from where they were left in Crans Montana in July 2017 will be a wholesome defeat for the Turkish Cypriot inalienable rights. Greek Cypriots will not agree to anything less than sugarcoating the all-Greek Cypriot Cyprus republic with some federal components added to the constitution and presenting it to Turkish Cypriots as a partnership state. Yet that would just be a Greek Cypriot state in which Turkish Cypriots will be provided with some minority rights or autonomous rights limited to cultural, sports, health and such domestic affairs.
At this junction, Turkish Cypriots must undertake some serious steps to show Greek Cypriots that they will never surrender to such demands. What those steps could be? To open the Varosha suburb of Famagusta to settlement under Turkish Cypriot rule. Former Greek Cypriot residents might be given some privileged status and compensation if they agree to return and live under Turkish Cypriot rule. Or to immediately start hydrocarbon exploration activities in the exclusive economic zone. Or to immediately engage in defense cooperation talks with Turkey and allow Turkey to establish a naval, air and land military base.
If such steps are taken, perhaps Greek Cypriots see the need to have a Cyprus deal. But, of course, a two-state settlement.