Turkey cannot abandon Cyprus

Turkey cannot abandon Cyprus

Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı was in Istanbul for the past few days. He was touring TV stations, talking with reporters and trying to explain to the Turkish people that after a federal resolution of the Cyprus problem, there would not be a need for the continued presence of a high number of Turkish troops on the island. But he stressed in all clarity that the Turkish Cypriot people would not say “yes” to any agreement that did not include the continuation of Turkey’s security guarantee.

It was interesting to note that for the past number of months, he has been negotiating a federal resolution with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, Akıncı never disclosed his personal view, always stressing that his people would not support a deal that did not include Turkey’s guarantee. Why? Was it because he personally did not believe there was a need for Turkey’s security guarantees on Cyprus?

During the Geneva round of “technical level” talks on security, as well as other headings of the Cyprus problem, why did Turkey feel the need to dispatch Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş? Was Türkeş so bored in Ankara that the government decided to award him with a two-day public-paid holiday in Geneva? If none of the other participants in the Geneva talks sent any minister-level representative there, why did Ankara decide to send Türkeş out of the blue? Since Türkeş did not attend any session of the Cyprus talks and only met over lunch and dinner with the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot delegations, why was there a need for such a Geneva trip; he could have conveyed whatever was his wish over the telephone, no?

Reports from the Greek Cypriot media stress that there was discomfort between Ankara and Akıncı. Was there indeed a confidence crisis? The claim that Ankara was bypassing Akıncı and dealing with chief negotiator Özdil Nami is very worrisome. Are these rumors a tactic of the Greek Cypriot side to create the perception that there was discord between Ankara and the northern Cyprus leadership? On the other hand, since the time of former President Mehmet Ali Talat, Nami has been on and off the Turkish Cypriot negotiations teams and established some very firm friendships both at the Foreign Ministry and at the office of the prime minister. But bypassing his president could not be something Nami could do or Akıncı could accept. Why was such speculation made, then? It is pretty clear that the five-party talks failed, as did the technical-level talks. The latest Cyprus talks exercise is dead. Still, the sides are unable to declare it dead. Thus, most probably, some people are trying to distract attention from the ugly photograph of the collapsed talks with such juicy speculation.

Regardless of whether or not Akıncı personally believes there is a need for the continued presence of Turkish troops on the island, his remark that Turkish Cypriots will not buy any deal that fails to include the Turkish guarantee and troop presence on the island is correct. Over 85 percent of Turkish Cypriots made that declaration in a recent public opinion poll. The very reason Akıncı was touring newsrooms and TV studios in Istanbul was just an effort to save his image, which has been battered with reports that without completing other subjects, he presented a map on territorial adjustments, the first such undertaking by a Turkish Cypriot leader since the start of the Cyprus talks in 1968. Akıncı not only gave a map without completing the discussions on all other headings except security, he attempted to conceal himself with a 1986 pledge by Turkish Cyprus’ founding president, Rauf Denktaş, that Turkish Cypriots would have 29+ percent of the territory of the island. Denktaş agreed to 29+ percent of the territory on the condition that there would be a global exchange and compensation scheme and that no Greek Cypriot would be settled in the north after a resolution. That is what Denktaş promised, but what Akıncı delivered is a totally different thing. However, in hiding himself behind Denktaş, Akıncı has been trying to extract himself from the mess he landed in by presenting the territorial adjustment map without progress on any of the other areas, particularly regarding the effective power sharing on the basis of political equality.

It was because of the wrong and rather amateurish approaches of Akıncı and his negotiating team that they seemed to suggest that there was full convergence on all other subjects but the process became deadlocked on the odd issue out, guarantees. 

What are the specific demands of Greek Cypriots and Greece? They’re quite clear and straight forward. In an EU-member country, there is no need for external security guarantees. An EU country cannot have foreign troops on its territory. Turkish Cypriot security concerns are groundless because conditions have changed a lot following the serious things that might have occurred in the past. The Greek Cypriots are not the same Greek Cypriots aspiring to unite with Greece, and the Turkish Cypriots would not be vulnerable to the attacks of the majority Greek population because EU membership itself would be the biggest guarantee of their security…

Such explanations are perhaps right and Greek Cypriots will most likely not repeat the genocidal tactics they applied between 1963 and 1974 on the Turkish Cypriots. The EU umbrella might serve as an effective tool to tame their wild nationalistic dreams and force them to learn to share power with Turkish Cypriots. Why, then, did over 70 percent of Greek Cypriots say in the latest public opinion poll that they would never agree for the presidency of a federal Cyprus to be occupied for a period by a Turkish Cypriot?

Apart from that, Britain has its own two sovereign bases. Greece, through bilateral deals, has a military presence on the island, as well as the right to access all military installations, including airports and deep-sea ports. Russia has been defending Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime despite all the atrocities it has been committing on its own population just for the sake of its military base in that country. Is Russia not going to become one of the chief actors in the eastern Mediterranean security architecture? But, no, Turkey will pack up and leave Cyprus because the post-resolution federation will be in EU… Come on, someone must be joking.

Then came the answer to Akıncı’s declaration that there might not be a need for a high number of Turkish troops on Cyprus after a resolution as Türkeş declared, “Even if there was not a single Turkish Cypriot, the island would still have great strategic importance for Turkey.” Capish?