Walking the extra mile on Cyprus

Walking the extra mile on Cyprus

Talks between the two peoples of Cyprus for an end to the nearly 50-year-old problem of power sharing between them will resume in October. Preparations for the talks have already started on both sides, while backdoor diplomatic activity has started to intensify.

The Cyprus problem has always been bigger than the island itself. To a certain extent because of the “external balance” aspect – that is the balance between Turkey and Greece – the Cyprus problem of course cannot be just a Cypriot issue even if both Athens and Ankara repeatedly stress their commitment to a solution that will be reached by the two sides on Cyprus.

Can the two Cypriot parties reach a settlement in the absence of the “shadow” of Athens and Ankara? Let’s be frank, can there be a Cyprus settlement should Turkish Cypriots “abandon” Turkey; ignore the “external balance” and related Turkish interests; forget about the role of Cyprus in Turkey’s European Union dimension and go their own way hand in hand with Greek Cypriot “compatriots?”

If we are to be frank, the answer ought to be frank as well. Greek Cypriots would love it if Turkish Cypriots engaged in such a suicidal course. In the international community, many countries would perhaps appreciate the Turkish Cypriot decision to walk alone – even if that walk is a blind one off a cliff. Such a thing would never happen.

If it has not been possible to achieve a wholesome settlement over 40 years of talks, can’t Turkish Cypriots now at least agree to a salami method of solution? That is, why should Turkish Cypriots not “hand back,” for example, the deserted Varosha suburb of Famagusta to its settlers from before the 1974 Turkish intervention? Many people, including U.N. Envoy Alexander Downer and his team are suggesting that such a thing would strengthen the hand of Nikos Anastasiades, who has been trying to battle the worst financial crisis for Greek Cypriots since he became president in February.

If ever there is going to be a settlement, confidence-building measures (CBMs) between the two sides on the island are definitely required. The two peoples must be nourished to accept “equality” as well as the “right to live,” security and justice for the other side as much as they demand the same things for themselves.
Otherwise, whatever might be the terms of the deal reached and irrespective to what extent the existentially important internal and external balances were respected, no Cyprus accord can survive more than a few years.
The fundamental cause of the problem in the Cyprus problem is not the 1974 Turkish intervention. The intervention was a by-product, yes, for Greek Cypriots a very painful by-product, of the 1963-1974 repeated Greek Cypriot attempts to annihilate their Turkish Cypriot partners in the Cypriot Republic.

The past is the past, of course. It is now time to build a common future on Cyprus. How can a common future be built? Through imposing and continuing a veil of international sanctions, including in the sporting realm, on Turkish Cypriots? The CBMs must start from the lifting of the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots, rather than demanding the return of Varosha, that is, a territorial concession before a wholesome accord is reached.
Downer and his team are reportedly also angered by the gigantic Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags on the Beşparmak mountains and have “suggested” that Turkish Cypriots make a unilateral a gesture, remove those flags and help strengthen the hand of Anastasiades.

If Downer was smart enough, he perhaps should have approached with concerns about the potential environmental hazards of the gigantic flags being illuminated at night. Greek Cypriot vandals are covering Turkish Cypriot flags in the buffer zone with Greek flags, and the U.N. team assigned to the island to help the two sides reach a deal advises the Turkish side to remove their flags from the mountain! Don’t Downer and his team have a duty to produce a consensus instead of trying to appease some quarters with such nasty suggestions?

Turkish Cypriots are aware of the need to walk the extra mile for a Cyprus deal but would only do so if Greek Cypriots decide to reach a compromise deal with their Turkish Cypriot partners.

After so many years on the job, Downer must know this better than anyone else.