Who is a fool?
I have a friend who often says, “The person who brands everyone critical of him as a fool is a fool himself.”
How many people might recall the statement attributed to Mustafa Akıncı, the president of the Turkish Cypriot state, after a farewell reception paid to him by Espen Barth Eide, then special Cyprus advisor to the United Nations secretary-general?
After Eide told Akıncı he expected the two communal leaders of Cyprus not to give up efforts to unite the island, Akıncı reportedly replied that even though Greek Cypriots were hiding behind security and guarantees, the federation has become a target impossible to attain because of refusal by the Greek Cypriots to accept power sharing. “I believe the time has come to consider the two states in European Union,” he reportedly stressed furthermore.
That statement by Akıncı made headlines on Aug. 1, 2017 in all Turkish Cypriot papers and placed him right on the bullseye for attacks from committed federalists who insisted on remaining federalist despite repeated statements of all major political figures on the Greek Cypriot side, stressing their refusal of any sort of power sharing in the absence of which federation cannot be achieved.
Yet, from that day on, under the duress of his domestic comrades and international mediators, including the European Union, which opposed the “two states in the EU” as an option and thus, Akıncı started discreet and shy—often proxy—negotiations on finding ways of making a U-turn to federation-targeted talks.
Last week, Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades was in front of cameras to make a statement to his people regarding the kind of settlement he had in mind with the “decentralized loose federation” proposal. He poured what he indeed had in mind: A rehashed Cyprus republic with some federal components with some minority rights for Turkish Cypriots.
While Akıncı remains committed, yet shyly, to the idea of a federal resolution, Anastasiades publicly objected the idea of power sharing, stressing that such a move would give vast powers to the “minority community” and thus render it impossible for the proper functioning of the state.
Indeed, as the Cyprus Mail rightly commented this week, it was just normal for most Turkish Cypriots to see Anastasiades’ epiphany as a blow to their fundamental demand for political equality and effective participation in decision-making. After all, Anastasiades did not want a federation providing Turkish Cypriots political equality and effective participation in governance that they consider sine qua non of federation.
Instead, Anastasiades wanted to limit the issues on which Turkish Cypriot approval was needed to those that were of vital significance to their communal interests. Furthermore, he stressed that under his formula, Turkish Cypriot approval would not be needed for hydrocarbon undertakings of the central government.
For example, he suggested that Turkish Cypriots should not have a say on energy decisions, because if the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline that would take gas from Cyprus to Greece was found to be viable by the EU study and the approval of the Council of Ministers was required for its construction, “would there be a positive Turkish Cypriot vote?”
In other words, the Turkish Cypriots should not have a say on energy decisions, which would involve billions of euros, because the natural resources of the island were not of vital importance to their interests. This way, he would ensure against them vetoing the East Med pipeline, which he raised to stir some nationalism even though he knows it would never happen.
It is obvious that Anastasiades was not envisioning a federal government, but a Greek Cypriot state with some minority rights to Turkish Cypriots. What does Akıncı say about this? No idea, as he keeps his cards close to his chest and continues indulging in discreet discussions. Can he sell such a resolution to his people? No way. Why is he allowing Anastasiades to portray him as a fool? Or, why is he treating his people as if they are fools?