Who will pay for the Geneva escape?
With the start of an ambitious three-day Cyprus conference of the two sides on the island and the three guarantor powers – Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “realistic” about the prospect of progress. He urged the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot parties to “be creative” in their approach during a web of direct and indirect talks slated to bring an end to a four-year stalemate in Cyprus diplomacy even if it cannot - most probably – achieve a major breakthrough towards a resolution.
It is easier said than done. How could the distance between the positions, targets as well as perceptions of the two sides be converged? Could it be possible to come out of three days of direct and indirect diplomacy with a “Hurrah, we have done it this time, we have agreed to proceed to work on the details of a resolution on a frame we laid down?”
A naughty reader commented in an e-mail post to this writer: “The Geneva exercise is, unfortunately, a still-born baby. The only agreement the Turks and the Greeks agree there can be to disagree in substance, context, or frame of a settlement on Cyprus. It is a Geneva escape for several dozens of the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot politicians taking a leave from the COVID-19 dominated domestic problems. What I wonder is who pays for the expenses of this luxurious Geneva excursion?”
Was it a Greek Cypriot who wrote the letter, or a Turkish Cypriot using a Greek alias? I could not figure it out. But does it matter? The Greek and Turkish Cypriot friends I spoke with on the phone over the past many days shared the same opinion: The Geneva talks cannot bring about any result because the two sides have totally different ideas, expectations and red lines. The only difference is for the first time in many decades the Turkish side has decided to courageously and officially put forward a different proposal. If the Greek Cypriots are not prepared to share the power, sovereignty and resources of the island with their “equal partner” Turkish Cypriots and insist on talking a bizonal and bicommunal federation, then it is indeed an insistence on not solving the Cyprus problem. Rather, the two peoples of the island should seek a two-state resolution. That could be full-fledged two independent states, a de-facto federation in the EU if the parties agree to a two-states in EU concept, or it might be a confederation of two states with one international identity and representation, provided the two confederated states have almost full sovereignty while the central government is largely a ceremonial post.
Troops, guarantee system, refugees, territory and all other problems might be resolved through intense and global bargaining. If EU-member independent two Cyprus states or EU-member confederated Cyprus options are preferred, the economic, political as well as physical security of the Turkish Cypriot people and the “entity” can best be guaranteed with Turkey given EU-member rights regarding the four freedoms: Free movement of goods, free movement of capital, freedom to establish and provide services and free movement of persons.
The Turkish Cypriots’ position indeed is nothing different than what originally late Rauf Denktaş, frustrated with the Greek Cypriot leadership appearing as if talking but focusing on consolidation for a place in the European Union for itself, offered at the Cyprus talks back in the late 1990s. Thus, the Turkish Cypriot leftist opponents who claim the two-state proposal was nothing new are indeed correct. Yet, in the 1990s, there was no EU attachment in the proposal. But now at stake is either a de-facto federation of two Cypriot states in the EU or a loose confederation in the EU.
The Greek Cypriot leader was indeed the instigator of the “decentralized federation” idea at the end of the Crans-Montana round of talks that collapsed because of his golden passports and other concerns, though a defeatist Mustafa Akıncı delivered almost everything the Greek Cypriots have been demanding, must be in an agreement.
The genie is out of the bottle. To refuse a two-state resolution that he indeed spelled out in the first place and to insist on a bizonal and bicommunal federation without agreeing to share power and sovereignty on the basis of political equality, effective participation in governance and as two sovereign partners makes a Cyprus deal a goal impossible to attain.
The question hinges on… If failure is guaranteed and the Geneva trip of the huge delegations of the two sides on the island, as well as the guarantor powers, the U.N. and the EU, then who will pay the expenses?