Win-win or lose-lose

Win-win or lose-lose

Cyprus settlement efforts have entered a new phase, with the negotiating parties announcing last week that after a month of intensified high-level talks among leaders and chief negotiators, the negotiations would move to somewhere out of Cyprus for talks on territory in November.
Will that be good or bad? Can anyone assume that since the two sides have agreed to “officially start” talks on the territorial aspects of the Cyprus problem – a first in more than 12 years – the Cyprus peacemaking exercise might have approached a resolution phase? Since the Turkish Cypriot side has agreed to blow up the linkage between territory and security, (the “guarantees” heading), could it be possible to secure an acceptable compromise resolution out of this process?

There’s no need to fool anyone. I have been a die-hard skeptic on this issue and although I still have yet to make my final decision on the issue, for the time being I’m inclined to cast a “no” vote in any referendum offered to the two peoples of the island. With decades of experience of Greek Cypriot negotiation tactics, we can say that if the link between territory and guarantees is cut, and if Greek Cypriots obtain some concessions close to their expectations in the territory chapter, Turkish Cypriots and Turkey are doomed to lose when it comes to discussing the security or guarantees chapter at a five-party international conference. Why? If Greek Cypriots, Greece and Britain share the same opinion that in the current conjecture, particularly as the island would be under the protective shield of membership in the European Union, would it be possible for Turkish Cypriots and Turkey to obtain a decision for the continuation of the 1960 security scheme mutatis mutandis, but without harming its context or spirit?

Discussing territory abroad was a must because any possible leak would mean devastating local life in northern Cyprus. Would it be possible to prevent leaks if the talks are moved to a third country? Most likely, but no one can trust the Greek Cypriots. I am afraid the habit of breastfeeding certain friendly reporters will continue, poisoning northern Cyprus with uncertainty and speculation, adding extra pressure on the negotiating team to conclude the talks as soon as possible. Concessions that might not otherwise be considered would therefore appear on the agenda.

The Turkish Cypriot leadership has been rather angry with the accusation that it is begging for a settlement, but unfortunately that sentence reflects an accurate assessment of the situation.

Last week, one of the speakers of an event on the Greek Cypriot side was Şener Levent, publisher of the “Africa” newspaper and a die-hard opponent of the Turkish Cypriot state. From Levent’s own article, we learned that he was shocked first with the presentation of a film presenting Turkish Cypriots as a minority rebelling against the Cyprus government. Moments later, however, a bigger shock was awaiting him. When he asked Greek Cypriot “peace proponents” whether they would vote “yes” in a referendum on a peace plan in which Turkish Cypriots give up rotation of the presidency, agree to the demanded territorial concessions, and firmly stipulated that not even one Turkish soldier was the stay on the island, he was shocked by their reply: “No, we oppose federation.”

Levent was shocked to notice that after so many decades the Greek Cypriots were still demanding a unitary state under their control and the Turkish Cypriots were to be given “minority status” on the island. “They do not want a settlement,” he wrote in shock.

That will be the reality that President Mustafa Akıncı and his chief negotiator Özdil Nami will discover soon when, hand-in-hand with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades, they walk over life in northern Cyprus by opening talks on the territorial aspects of the problem, separate from the security heading. Somewhere in Europe, probably Geneva or somewhere else in Switzerland, they will discuss territory. Leaks from those talks will kill life in northern Cyprus. And in such a bad psychological atmosphere a five-party conference – with the inclusion of the three guarantor powers of Turkey, Greece and Britain - will convene. That is, after life has been devastated in the north, talks will move onto the security chapter amid statements from the Greek side saying “You said that if there is agreement in all chapters we will not let the talks collapse over the security chapter.” Now is the time to deliver. There is accord on all other headings and three of the five parties do not want continuation of the “guarantee system” duress. 

Naturally, within months this process will come to an end and, according to the undeclared timetable, in March the two peoples of the island will vote on a settlement plan in separate simultaneous referenda.
Will the result be win-win or lose-lose?