'With or without you'
It’s a very interesting approach. It is necessary to understand that the situation has reached a very sensitive stage when it is said that “under any circumstances, we will do this with or without you.”
What does it mean by “with or without you?” It’s obvious, actually. If one of the parties or someone who may have played a predominant role in obtaining results in any creeping issue has used that phrase, the message is clear: This will work. Either you join and take advantage, or you don’t and pay the bill.
Years have passed, and if I cannot repeat it in the same words, I can summarize what late Turgut Özal often used to say as follows: It is important to be at the table. But how you are at the table is more important. To be on the menu, or to eat from the menu? Turkey ought to be a country that always sits at the table.
“With or without you” is also a different version of that expression. Either you join where the problem will get solved with your contribution and your interests or expectations will be answered, or you don’t join where you’re willing to let them make you pay the bill for the meal.
In recent days, this message is often being given or expressed discreetly in diplomacy related to Cyprus. To whom? If we say that the Turkish Cypriot side is not being told, it would be outright denialism. To Turkey? That’s what they
say. What about the Greek Cypriot leadership or Greece? They’re told more clearly.
The world is sick and tired of the Cyprus problem. Moreover, the Cyprus problem is like an onion field, which gets congested the more water it gets. The tubers multiply, more and more branches are growing. If we ask some young academics, “What is the Cyprus problem?” they might look at our faces in bewilderment. I’ve seen it recently, and that’s already the case in the “international relations” departments of some important universities.
The kids are right. The Cyprus issue is no longer just about the language and religion or ethnic groups, who are finding it difficult to share the island. Or the far bigger issue in which one of these culturally separated two peoples are refusing to share the island with the other under any framework or, worse, trying to destroy the other with violent policies, including genocidal attacks and ethnic cleansing. The issue of internal balance and external balance, which we have always talked about, is far behind us. It is now far more complicated.
With the addition of this current gangrene, the issue of the sharing of eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbon resources has worsened and made it widespread, with a much broader focus of interests, even opportunities to whet the appetite of countries of the Mediterranean basin or even the non-coastal countries such as France, the United States or Russia.
The treatment of this wound, of course, should neither bother Russia nor France. However, although France might be pushed out, Russia cannot be left out of this equation. If, however, Russia cannot be left out of the equation, it is not impossible but close to impossible that a wholesome solution to the Cyprus problem can be produced anytime soon.
So, why are there such things as “with or without you?” Clearly, a change in the status quo is aimed. If a new legal situation cannot arise, legitimacy must be ensured, at least within an acceptable framework of the de facto reality on the island. That’s probably the point.
Despite the announcement by Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) government that they want a two-state solution, the Greeks cling to the federation utopia they rejected at the last moment in Crans Montana in 2017. Why they adamantly ask for a federal solution that they rejected in 2004 and 2017 with the back of their hands? If since 1977 they repeatedly rejected each and every federation proposal and shunned all efforts, then why have they been calling for the resumption of a process aimed at creating a federal Cyprus? Will they change their mindset and agree to power-sharing, effective participation in governance by Turkish Cypriots?
Turkey’s clear stance, which can be roughly summed up both by the steps taken regarding Varosha’s opening to resettlement and by a firm position along the lines of “there is no need to meet if you say you will discuss nothing but federation” has sparked panic among Greek Cypriots. Why? Because they were scared that there will be developments that will not be pleasant for them regarding the status and future of the Turkish Cypriot state.
Significant developments are expected following the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in the United States. The U.N. secretary-general’s special representative will visit the region again in January. During this visit, it is envisaged that the 5+1 informal summit proposed by Turkey, which stipulates the equal participation of the Greek Cypriot leadership and the TRNC, will be reviewed, and even a summit draft declaration will be prepared.
Furthermore, there is an effort as well to convene a Mediterranean international event to which Turkey has already said that it is willing to attend if the TRNC along with the Greek Cypriot state were invited on equal footing.
Something’s cooking. If the Greeks can be called “either with you or without you,” and the Greek leadership is on the idea that Ercan will start international traffic under the U.N. administration in exchange for the opening of Varosha and the sea port next to it, something is definitely cooking.
If soon, instead of the goal of a wholesome two-state or confederation solution, preparing the ground for a comprehensive agreement with confidence-building measures is at the forefront, perhaps we can also see some not so accustomed developments regarding sharing of the Mediterranean hydrocarbon resources. What do you think about that?