WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM A POSSIBLE RESUMPTION OF THE BICOMMUNAL NEGOTIATIONS?
Professor of Economics and Public Policy
President, Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs
Head, Department of Politics and Governance
University of Nicosia
On August 9, 2019 President Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in the presence of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar and discussed the prospects of embarking on a new round of negotiations with the objective to reach at last a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem. Despite the fact that President Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci have different views on various issues they agreed to a meeting with the UN Secretary General in New York in late September. It is expected that subsequently an informal conference under the auspices of the UN will be arranged involving the two community leaders and the three guarantor powers. It is important to note that an agreement on the terms of the negotiating framework has not been reached so far despite the visit and the intensive work of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General Mrs Jane Holl Lute.
The Greek Cypriot side accepted to explore the possibility of a new round of bicommunal negotiations despite the fact that Turkey has been systematically violating the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara has been stressing that no major development in relation to energy can take place in the Eastern Mediterranean without its participation and consent. It is also useful to note that the Turkish Cypriot leadership has been supporting Ankara’s positions both in relation to energy and the substance of the Cyprus Problem.
It would be misleading to try to understand the Cyprus question exclusively within the framework of its bicommunal dimension. The Cyprus problem contains additional dimensions, including the following:
- Greco-Turkish; Greece and Turkey are two of the three guarantor powers of the Republic of Cyprus.
- European; Cyprus is a member of the EU while Greece and Britain are also members. Turkey has its own special relations and arrangements with the EU while it has been a candidate since 1999.
- International; inevitably the Cyprus question is an international problem as it involves the invasion and occupation of about 38% of the territory of a small country by its strongest neighbor.
- Regional/Geostrategic; the Cyprus Problem is inevitably linked with the power struggles for supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Indeed, the bicommunal dimension is not the most important.
It is essential to keep in mind that Turkey has been using the Turkish Cypriot community as a strategic minority to advance its objectives in Cyprus, that is to achieve, maintain and legitimize its control of this island-state. If we assess the positions of the Turkish Cypriot leadership it is easy to observe that these fully satisfy Ankara’s objectives. More specifically, the demand for a new partnership within the framework of a bizonal bicommunal federation or a loose confederation amount to putting aside the Republic of Cyprus and replacing it with a new state entity. The demand for political equality as defined by the Turkish side, if implemented, would imply that no major decision will be taken without the consent of the Turkish Cypriot side. The demand for rotating presidency is also indicative. Last but not least, the Turkish policy of colonialism has as an objective to dramatically change the demographics in Cyprus. In other words, Turkey aspires not only to turn Cyprus into a protectorate but to create in due time a Turkish demographic majority in the island.
Cyprus has always been an island with a predominantly hellenic identity. And over time the island has had an overwhelming Greek demographic majority. Since 1974 Turkey has embarked a policy of colonialism of the occupied northern part of Cyprus which it ethnically cleansed. We should also remember that all Turkish Cypriots were transferred to the occupied northern part of the island. In the last few years colonialism has been intensified. This has also been accompanied by a policy of islamization.
Under these circumstances it is unlikely that a solution that will constitute an improvement of the status quo for the Greek Cypriots will be reached. To the present day Turkey’s actions in Cyprus have not been effectively addressed by the UN and the international community. And the EU’s recent decisions in relation to the violation of the Cyprus EEZ by Turkey did not lead to any spectacular outcome; nevertheless, they constitute a step in the right direction.
One can also raise the question whether the perquisites for a federal solution of the Cyprus problem exist. There is a huge gap between the two communities while the Greek Cypriots, justifiably, mistrust Turkey. Furthermore, it also seems that the two sides do not have a minimum list of common objectives. Consequently, it may be necessary to think creatively outside the box to achieve progress and a better climate that will facilitate a lasting solution.