Why a federal Cyprus is a dead hope
Before undertaking any new Cyprus initiative or even considering a rehash of the failed process, how the process failed in Crans Montana on the night of July 7, 2017 must be remembered well.
At the Crans Montana talks, the position of the Turkish side was rather clear. Indeed on the way to Switzerland, at a meeting at the Istanbul presidential residence, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı received the full support of Turkey to all the compromises he had in mind, including a substantial immediate withdrawal of troops, eventual phasing out of the Turkish military presence to the 1960 agreement levels, and a radical territorial arrangement. He, however, was given a condition. He was told if that exercise failed despite such generous efforts and compromises of the Turkish side, no one should talk ever again about the possibility of a federal resolution of the Cyprus problem. In that case, other alternatives, be it confederation, two states in European Union, or whatever must be considered.
The Greek Cypriot-Greek position was also rather straightforward. They wanted an end to Turkish military presence and the 1960 guarantee system under which Turkey intervened in 1974 on the island after an Athens-engineered Greek-Cypriot coup. They were demanding Varosha, Morphou, and a large part of the Karpas Peninsula to settle 100,000 of the total 160,000 Greek Cypriots who moved to the south in the 1974 Turkish intervention and the return of the remaining 60,000 to areas that the Turks would retain.
On the other hand, they were appearing as if they would agree to power sharing, including the rotation of presidency, under the political equality demand of Turkish Cypriots. They were appearing as if they agreed that for key decisions at either the cabinet or parliament the approval of at least one minister or a certain majority of the Turkish Cypriot deputies would be sought – a demand required for effective participation in governance.
However, when it came to deliver, Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias were rather penny-pinchers. Though Turkey agreed to compromise in troops and pledged to consider alternatives to meet the security concerns of Turkish Cypriots, the two preferred to hide on a claim that Turkey refused to give its proposals in written form and did not move an inch to deliver regarding power-sharing of what they kept on promising for the past many months of talks.
It was the frustration with the intransigence of the Greek Cypriot side that collapsed the federation talks. If one of the two sides of a federation talk refuse to share power with the other, or suggest the other to have political equality restricted to its self-governing area but leave the central government to the bigger community, obviously the basic ingredient for federation was absent, and that was the conclusion that compelled Antonio Guterres to call an end to the exercise.
Since Crans Montana, nothing developed for the better. On the contrary, Anastasiades started publicly declaring that the “majority” should not succumb to the “minority” and for effectivity in governance the “minority” should drop the demand to have the approval of one Turkish minister in the federal government, or to a “yes” vote of at least some of the Turkish deputies to get a legislation passed by parliament.
Such a mentality is a non-starter and even if Akıncı wishes to have “one last trial,” any federation talk will not lead anywhere other than serving to legitimize the eastern Mediterranean unilateral hydrocarbon activity of the Greek Cypriot administration. Obviously, Akıncı cannot decide on such an issue alone. No one can question his legitimacy as president, but he is the Turkish Cypriot negotiator representing the Turkish Cypriot parliament. That was what main opposition National Unity Party (UBP) leader Ersin Tatar said this week. A president whose party has less than 10 percent of the vote share cannot talk
for the entirety of the Turkish Cypriot people if other
parties are not supportive of his position. He does not have that support now.