Turkish Cyprus President’s mandate set to change

Turkish Cyprus President’s mandate set to change

When Cyprus intercommunal talks started in 1968, the target of Turkish Cypriots in the process was to negotiate “local autonomy.”

At the time, the partnership rights of Turkish Cypriots in the Cyprus Republic were usurped by force of arms, immense atrocities and the Turkish population of 103 Turkish-populated or mixed villages were rendered as refugees. Those talks faltered in 1971, resumed in 1972, almost reached a deal in 1973 but were not allowed by the Makarios administration to succeed on the grounds that the Turkish Cypriots never ever agreed to termination of the guarantor status of Turkey and withdrawal of some 650 Turkish troops deployed on the island as part of the guarantee system together with 900 Greek troops.

Atrocities committed on the Turkish Cypriot population were so fresh. Unilateral constitutional amendments were just made, Turkish Cypriot rights were just usurped, effective federal character of the Cyprus Republic was replaced with an all-Greek system. Yet, President Makarios and his government that occupied the seat of the government contrary to the constitution and the founding agreements, were expecting Turkish Cypriots to give up Turkey’s guarantee, send back Turkish troops and render themselves totally defenseless against attacks by Greek Cypriots who aimed to totally cleanse the island from Turks, through the so-called “Akritas plan.”

Had Greek Cypriots agreed to the Turkish Cypriots’ demand for “local autonomy” in 1973, there probably would not be a Cyprus problem today as they would have gotten rid of the Turkish population altogether by now. Yet, because of their greed, they could not agree to trade some local autonomous rights to Turkish Cypriots in exchange for their approval of an all-Greek governance of Cyprus.

Even the colonels’ junta of Athens would probably not be able to stage the 1974 coup to achieve annexation of the island to Greece as de facto Cyprus would become a totally Greek country with only some minor Turkish flavor.

The 1974 Greece-ordered coup against Archbishop Makarios, “creation” of the “Hellenic Republic of Cyprus” by Nikos Sampson and his Eoka-B and the ensuing Turkish intervention changed the entire equilibrium on Cyprus. Even at that stage, Turkish Cypriots were willing to buy a cantonal resolution of the Cyprus issue, with them having some 20 percent of the land in 18 cantons all around the island. The August 1975 population exchange agreement between Rauf Denktaş and Glafkos Clerides created a bi-zonal situation on the island for the first time. Greeks moved south while Turks moved north, producing a de facto bi-zonal and bi-communal situation.

Since 1975, the official target of the Turkish Cypriot side in the Cyprus intercommunal talks has been to negotiate with the Greek Cypriot side a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal resolution. The 1977 and 1979 “High Level Agreements” between the two sides, creation of a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation was set as a target.

Many plans were negotiated, many initiatives were exhausted since the 1977 decision officially established creation of a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation as the target of Cyprus talks. Each time, at some advanced stage of the talks, the Greek Cypriot side either walked out, produced some artificial argument and deadlocked the process or as they did on April 24, 2004, voted to kill the United Nations-negotiated plan, but still continued complaining that they wanted a settlement but Turks were uncompromising.

The last exercise that abruptly—but as should have been forecasted much earlier by all Cyprus watchers—ended at Crans-Montana with Greek Cypriots complaining this time at a “European Union-member state” that there ought to be no place for guarantors and foreign troops. However, in a rather defeatist mentality, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had agreed immediate substantial withdrawal of Turkish troops right after a deal was reached to take the number of Turkish troops down to 650 within a program and to negotiate an end to the guarantee system and full Turkish withdrawal from Cyprus in 15 years. As treacherous as it might sound, that was what Akıncı and Çavuşoğlu offered in exchange of a deal that included Turkish Cypriot political equality parameters, including rotation of presidency and effective participation in governance.

Now, Greek Cypriots have started to tilt to rehash the Cyprus talks once the February presidential elections are over. Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades, who although has been far ahead all other candidates in the polls, cannot be reelected in the absence of communist electoral support. The Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), on the other hand, has been demanding a federal resolution, categorically objecting the two-state in the EU formula that Akıncı has lately started to subscribe to. Thus, Anastasiades’s vow to accept “Antonio Guterres’s points” and return to talks is a gimmick to win AKEL support.

In the north, however, probably today, a parliamentary motion will be presented deleting “to negotiate a ‘federation’” from the president’s mandate and replacing it with a “two-state resolution” paragraph… Can this be a game changer? Indeed, particularly for Akıncı.