Yet another futile Cyprus exercise

Yet another futile Cyprus exercise

The “social meeting” of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders on Aug. 9 produced yet another false hope that perhaps Cyprus talks might resume from where they collapsed in June 2016 in Crans Montana. According to some pundits, not only talks might resume soon, there might be a Cyprus deal as early as November this year. Indeed, there are even talks of a five-party conference for a final give-and-take to start on Nov. 15 and conclude the latest on Jan. 10 with a “bi-communal,
bi-zonal Cyprus federation.”

North Cyprus will be having presidential elections in April 2020 and President Mustafa Akıncı, who came to power in 2015 with a pledge to reach a federal Cyprus deal with Greek Cypriots within a year, is expected to seek a second term in office. If not for an election victory even in order to seek reelection, he badly needs to pump up the image that talks have resumed and there are strong prospects of a resolution. However, sentiments in North Cyprus have changed a lot since 2015, particularly since the 2016 collapse of the Cyprus talks with a conviction cemented among Turkish Cypriots that Greek Cypriots would never agree to a power-sharing scheme based on political equality of the two peoples of the island.

Now, while Akıncı’s Communal Democracy Party (TDP), which received 8.61 percent of the votes in the January 2018 elections, is believed to have seriously further eroded, the socialist Republican Turks Party (CTP) of former Premier Tufan Erhürman, that received 21 percent of the vote in January 2018, not only is suffering erosion produced by the previously failed four-way coalition government but is as well in intense internal leadership squabbles. Together with the other tiny leftist groups, the overall strength of the federalist left, therefore, cannot exceed 32-33 percent, while the cumulative electoral strength of the nationalist, patriotic and liberal parties might come close to 70 percent. The second bloc of parties, (two of which – the Nationalist Unity (UBP) and the People’s (HP) parties – are in government while the other two are in opposition) are all in favor of a two-state resolution. Even if talks resume, Akıncı will feel a burning pressure not to compromise on some red lines that included political equality, effective participation in governance, Turkish military presence and the guarantee system. The very same headlines constitute the red lines of the Greek
Cypriot side as well.

The assumption that at the end of September there will be a trilateral meeting of the two communal leaders of Cyprus with the United Nations secretary-general depends largely on the success of the contacts of Jane Holl Lute, the U.N. special envoy on the Cyprus dispute. Can she complete the reference points that she failed to put together in almost two years now within a month or so because now Akıncı badly needed a progress to support his electioneering? Most probably such a trilateral event, as well as if the secretary-general wishes to make a call for it, would be a five-party Cyprus unofficial conference? What might such a conference bring about at a time when the parties are so determinant on not agreeing on many issues, from the 1960 Guarantee and Alliance Treaty to the hydrocarbon rights in the eastern Mediterranean?

If despite all the odds it becomes possible for the U.N. secretary-general to make a call for the formal convening of a five-party Cyprus conference, would he call such an important event to go underway on Nov. 15? Can he ignore that Nov. 15 would be the 36th anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that the U.N. declared null and void?
Worse, as if the EU has not killed all the credibility it has by acting for the sake of club solidarity and aligning so strongly with the Greek Cypriots against Turkey, the 28-nation bloc wants to be present in the Cyprus talks as an observer.

A new Cyprus exercise or reincarnation of the long dead and buried exercise may earn diplomats some good money, but that’s all. It will be just a waste of time again as apart from the thorny guarantees, Turkish troops or the property issues, Greek Cypriots have no intention of sharing power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality, and no leader can make the Turkish Cypriot people accept anything less than that.