Unilateralism is over in Cyprus
With the opening of the Varosha card in Cyprus, the preconceived approaches were broken and all the presumed landmarks were cracked. It was obvious that with a change after 47 years in the Varosha position of the Turkish Cypriot-Turkish side a hell of reactions would flare-up. Now, the move was taken, and reactions mushroomed as not only the Greek Cypriot side but also the United Nations and the European Union were confused.
All through the past many decades, it was normal for the Greek Cypriots, the U.N. and the EU to take unilateral steps – be it giving the all-Greek Cypriot government the status of government of the entire island contrary to the constitution and the founding agreements of the 1960 state or admission of that all-Greek government as the government of the entire island into the EU – but when the Turkish Cypriots with Turkish support moved in Varosha to change a bit the status quo, a strong wave of panic swept all.
Well done then. The initial target was achieved, a strong message was conveyed that nothing will be the same any longer. The U.N. Security Council’s presidential statement and reactions from the EU were all reflecting an acute digestive problem and underlined why the “game-changer” moves and the “calculated tension policy” were so successful.
The cries of foul play were wrong as everything that was undertaken so far was within International Law. The first move came on June 18, 2019, with a Turkish Cypriot Council of Ministers’ decision to order an inventory, a scientific one, in Varosha. After the inventory work was completed in cooperation with Turkey, the Turkish Cypriot Government lifted the restriction on the access of people to the beach area of the fenced-off Varosha. That was followed by a recent move to lift the military area status of 3.5 percent of Varosha. The area was adjacent to the territory inhabited by the Turkish Cypriots, and most of it belonged to a mosque and its foundation. The mosque, by the way, was renovated three months before the move and together with an end to the military status of the area was reopened for prayers.
The 3.5 percent of Varosha taken out of military zone will not be settled by anyone other than its pre-1974 owners – and mind you, the tenants are included. Thus, the relevant U.N. resolution was respected in full. The transfer of the administration of the zone to the U.N. was not done because of the strong distrust towards the U.N. and the terrible reputation it developed with unsuccessful peacekeeping operations in Cyprus and elsewhere.
No one should have a utopia that because of U.N. or EU statements Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would back down from their undertakings. On the contrary, a further move must be expected in the not-so-distant future because a decision has been made that “nothing will be the same in Cyprus.” Was it not that in line with what was said after Nicos Anastasiades walked out of talks at Crans-Montana in 2017, though all his demands were accepted by the Turkish side? Everyone must understand that Varosha will be reopened to civilian life, yes in line with the wishes of the region’s pre-1974 settlers, but as part of the Turkish Cypriot territory and under Turkish Cypriot rule.
In short, the steps taken so far do not contradict the objective of the U.N. Security Council resolution. Moreover, it is worth noting that the bindingness of the U.N. Security Council resolutions is a matter of debate. Varosha cannot be a bargaining chip at the talks any longer. Right, there might be a territorial aspect of a Cyprus resolution, but it must be noted down that unitary state or federation aspirations have all gone down the drain with Anastasiades proving for the last time at Crans-Montana that he cannot deliver a settlement based on partnership in sovereignty and resources of Cyprus. Now, he has to agree before any talks that there are two sovereign equals in Cyprus.
The reason why the Cyprus issue has come to this point is not the commitment of the Turkish Cypriot side for a negotiated compromise settlement but rather a persistent refusal of the Greek Cypriot side in categorically refusing to accept political equality of the Turkish Cypriot side. Why they were pursuing such an adamant position? Because they were assured with firm support from the U.S., the U.K., the EU and the U.N. that they would enjoy full support irrespective of how heinous atrocities and unilateral undertakings they might commit against the Turkish Cypriots.
It might be painful to sit back and confess what great mistakes were done against the Turkish Cypriots since March 1964. Can anyone say anything today to the Turkish Cypriots if they refuse to accept the mandate of the U.N. force on Cyprus and say they cannot operate in North Cyprus because they were not even consulted before an extension of the mandate was voted?
Enough, unilateralism ought to be over in Cyprus.