Will it be Cyprus’ year?
The highlight of the one-day trip to North Cyprus by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu might best be his bold declaration that the time has come to end the 50-year-old Cyprus problem. Can there be relevance between the age and the time for a resolution of the problem? Obviously not, but a minister expressing conviction that the time has come to end the problem carries incredible importance and naturally boosts expectations to that end.
Is it really the high time, the best opportunity, the right moment or the last chance for a Cyprus deal? All through the past many decades, somehow many prominent and otherwise effective personalities, including not only Davutoğlu and people of his caliber, but many prime ministers, presidents - and every American leader since George Bush Sr. - have declared previous years as “Cyprus year,” but that Cyprus year never came…
Will it come this time? Sure… The Cyprus problem could easily be resolved if the two sides on the island ever develop sufficient political will; prepare their respective societies to be receptive to a painful compromise and international actors stop paying lip service to the idea of a resolution, but instead genuinely support a resolution.
Do the two sides on Cyprus have the political will? Does Turkey want a settlement? Is Greece prepared for a deal that might trigger a larger deal with Turkey over the Aegean and Thrace issues? Of these questions only one element is affirmative: The Turkish Cypriots want a settlement. In 2004, they not only demonstrated in simultaneous referenda, but repeated polls have since shown that the pro-settlement resolve of Turkish Cypriots is over 65 percent.
The Greek Cypriots? Polls show that a decreasing 41 percent are receptive to the idea of resolution, and that less than 30 want federation. Officially, both Greece and Turkey support a compromise deal on Cyprus. But how sincere are they? Last time, in 2004, despite all of the pledges made before, Greece eventually could not support a plan for a resolution. Will it support a compromise deal this time? Let us hope it will. Turkey will support any deal supported by Turkish Cypriots, provided Turkey somehow maintains a presence on the island. Why should it not, after all, if Britain, a country far away, has two sovereign bases on the island just because it was the previous colonial power? Was it not Turkey that leased the island to Greece?
International actors keep on vowing to support a deal on Cyprus. But why would the British want a settlement, knowing that despite the recent agreement it signed in haste with the Greek Cypriots, British bases on Cyprus will be the next and joint target for all Cypriots if ever they resolve their bilateral quagmire? The Russians do not want a resolution either. Why should they? It would upset their peculiar position as the major energy supplier of Europe, (particularly) to Germany? And also render life even more difficult to the Russian population and collaborators engaged in the bleaching business? Why would the Americans support a compromise deal if they benefit from the British bases on divided Cyprus? The upcoming visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden this week and the anticipated visit to the island within weeks by Secretary of State John Kerry, of course, demonstrate an interest in the Cyprus problem. A visit by a U.S. vice president – the first in 52 years – of course will be meaningful.
Plans to ease Europe's energy dependency on Russia might play a role for an accelerated demand for a Cyprus deal push. Don’t the Americans know better than anyone else a Cyprus peace requires engagement in goodwill and determination by both sides and at least Turkey, if not Turkey and Greece together? Why would the Greek Cypriots want a resolution as long as they enjoy alone the “sole legitimate government” of Cyprus, and the Turkish Cypriot part of the island is considered only an “area not under the government’s control?”
Yes, Davutoğlu may wish to see accelerated peace talks and a commitment from Nikos Anastasiades to work for a deal “as soon as possible.” But in view of the latest European Court of Human Rights ruling and these plain realities, can that be possible anytime soon?