INSIGHT: ‘Is there a lasting solution to the question of Cyprus?’
21. Yüzyıl Türkiye Enstitüsü tarafından yazıldı.
‘Is there a lasting solution to the question of Cyprus?’
Incek Debates, on 15 March 2017, discussed ‘If there was a lasting solution to the question of Cyprus’. Speakers were Prof Hüseyin Bağcı(Middle East Technical University), journalist Yusuf Kanlı (Hürriyet Daily News) and Dr CDRE(ret’d) Ergun Mengi. The session was chaired by Dr Haldun Solmaztürk and was participated by a select group of experts as well as an international representation from the diplomatic corps resident in Ankara. Below is Rapporteur’s Summary of the debate, not necessarily reflecting particular viewpoints expressed by any one of the panelists, nor those of any one or all of the participants in consensus. The debate was off-the-record.
The Republic of Cyprus came into existence when the island gained independence from Britain in 1960. It was based on the Zurich-London Agreements of 1959, supplemented by ‘Three-T’ treaties. Three countries, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom guaranteed the Constitution—and the constitutional order—of the Republic of Cyprus through the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Guarantee and the Treaty of Alliance. Constitutional order collapsed in December 1963 when Greek Cypriots attempted to change the constitutional arrangements—based on the political equality of Turkish and Greek Cypriots—by force. The Turkish Cypriot community was defended by the intervention of the Cyprus Turkish Forces Regiment (KTKA) (stationed in Cyprus in 1960) and show of force by Turkish Air Forces.
United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was deployed in 1964. UNFICYP is the third longest-serving UN force, after United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (Middle East 1948) and United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (Kashmir 1949). Despite the presence of UNFICYP, Turks endured a life of open prison in isolated villages in a divided island for about 11 years. When the military junta in Athens attempted to annex the Island to Greece by a military coup in 1974, Turkey intervened unilaterally and invaded Cyprus. Intervention was based on its treaty obligation to reconstitute the constitutional order. Other guarantor, the United Kingdom refused to intervene.
Since 1963, numerous attempts to arrive at a resolution of the long-standing question of Cyprus failed. Recently a five-party Conference on Cyprus, attended by respective leaders and foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, was convened in Geneva on 12 January 2017, followed by an experts meeting on 18-19 January in Mont Pelerin (Switzerland). The two leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı met again in Cyprus—under the auspices of the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide—on 1 February, and later on 9 February. However, the current round of ‘talks’ is giving, again, unpromising signs.
Cynically, the question of Cyprus is about ‘forgetting versus remembering’. While Turkish Cypriots do remember whatever happened between 1963 and 1974, Greek Cypriots for their part, (mostly) prefer to forget what happened during the same period.
Essentially, the question of Cyprus is a legacy of history and geopolitics which dictates or exacts control of the island. That’s why power-sharing is so crucial to a settlement. Consequently, the Question can be reduced to a disagreement over the political equality, that is effective and balanced participation in governance by respective communities.
The long-projected resolution scheme basically calls for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state—the Federal Republic of Cyprus. Whatever threatens the bi-zonal and/or bi-communal character of the future state has the potential to block a resolution: population movements, resettlement, redelineation of boundaries, ownership of property etc.
Greek Cypriots insist in ethnically-mixed ‘zones’ where Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots would live ‘together’. For properties, compensation is probably the easiest way to solve. The fact that ‘emotional links’ have been weakened has eased the problem of ‘return’. But above all, it is the dominant emotional state in respective societies, which can best be described as ‘learned distrust’, blocking any progress towards a settlement.
With the passage of time, a deficit of trust and alienation have built up on both sides. History of the 19th and 20th centuries does not help. This psychology has been supplemented by a sense of ‘clash of civilizations’ which in turn has been further exacerbated by the rising xenophobia, anti-Western and anti-Turkish sentiments in Turkey and in Europe respectively.
In response to question of ‘if obstacles can be overcome’ there are three answers: for pessimists there is no chance, the only resolution is termination of negotiations and seeking recognition from the international community; for optimist hopefuls a resolution is already within reach; for cynical realists the question does not exist any longer. Although pessimists and cynical realists (on the Turkish side) may sound like the same, they differ fundamentally. Status quo defended by the latter is totally unacceptable to the former.
In spite of the existing areas of disagreement, with goodwill and sufficient—and proper—pressure on both sides, the Question can be solved. ‘Leadership’ is a function which is desperately needed at many levels and platforms. The Question has become more internationalized than ever. Perhaps this is also where the key to a settlement lies. Active role of international actors could help breaking the critical psychological barriers and finally reach a lasting solution which may be within reach.
The session sought answers to three basic questions: 1. Why the Question of Cyprus cannot (re)solved? (What are the main areas/subjects of dispute and discord?) 2. Can these obstacles/difficulties that get in the way be possibly overcome? (How?) 3. Who should/can do what? Debate produced more than one answer—to each of the three questions—which are both simple and crystal clear, at the same time. However, the devil is in the detail.
What is the Question about?
Cynically, it is about ‘forgetting versus remembering’. While Turkish Cypriots do remember whatever happened between 1963 and 1974, Greek Cypriots for their part, (mostly) prefer to forget what happened during the same period. In other words, while Turkish Cypriots start the ‘Question’ by December 1963 events (so-called Bloody Christmas), for Greek Cypriots the year zero is 1974—Greek coup and the Turkish intervention.
Essentially, the question of Cyprus is a legacy of history and geopolitics which dictates or exacts control of the island. That’s why power-sharing is so crucial to a settlement. And that’s why, while the ‘majority’ claims dominance over the ‘minority’, it is rejected and resisted by the latter. In this sense, the Question exists for Turkish Cypriots only. For Greek Cypriots who simply want restoration of status-quo ante (bellum)—that is de facto constitutional situation before the 1974 Turkish intervention—there is no such question but Turkish invasion and occupation.
Consequently, the Question can be reduced to a disagreement over the political equality, that is effective and balanced participation in governance by respective communities. All other considerations—perhaps except for the effective security guarantee of Turkey—are extensions or reflections of this primary, fundamental dispute.
Greek Cypriots, as long as they continue talking of Cyprus as ‘This is our island!’, they will not be willingly accept any settlement short of unity of Cyprus under Greek Cypriot supremacy. They are not really interested in a ‘settlement’ as the term is universally understood. Yet, to them, for obvious reasons, status quo is unacceptable.
Turkish Cypriots, for their part, would never give up a legitimate right to protection—in some form—of Turkey. Against the backdrop of a rapidly rising xenophobia, authoritarianism and anti-Turkish sentiments throughout Europe (which are reciprocated, albeit to a slightly lesser degree), the memories of 1963-1974, and decades of failure in arriving at a lasting solution and, above all, EU membership of Greece and the ‘Republic of Cyprus’, securing Turkey’s guarantee is considered vital.
Turkish government, on the other hand, is hardly giving any priority to the resolution of the ‘Question’ or, bearing in mind the time passed since 1974, is no way behaving with some sense of urgency. As for the division of the island—and sovereign ‘independence’ of TRNC—Turkey has not given any sign that this has ever been considered as a real option. No country seems to be ready to recognize TRNC—against provisions of the relevant UNSCRs—anyway.
UK, one of the guaranteeing powers, is content with the current state of affairs in Cyprus. As long as UK retains two sovereign bases—or the legal right to use them—it will maintain an equal distance to all parties. UK—like U.S.—is mistrusted by both parties.
The prevailing, if not dominant, political position in Turkey sounds like maintaining the status quo. However, Turkish Cypriot leadership evidently strives for a lasting resolution based on major compromises—short of abandoning legal and effective political equality.
Linking Turkey’s accession to EU and the resolution of the Question would probably doom the future of negotiations forever.
Turkey’s regular direct contributions to TRNC budget and other direct or indirect grants in various forms, in the course of many decades, have amounted to several billions of dollars. This is a burden Turkey seems to be willing to take on for quite a long time. However, this does not make the Question go away.
It is generally believed that in spite of the existing areas of disagreement, with goodwill and sufficient—and proper—pressure on both sides, the Question can be solved. ‘Leadership’ is a function which is desperately needed at many levels and platforms.
The Question has become more internationalized than ever. Perhaps this is also where the key to a settlement lies. Without the intervention and active role of international actors—other than primary stakeholders—there is no chance of a settlement in the short-to-mid term. This would help breaking the critical psychological barriers and finally reach a lasting solution which may be within reach.
The full report is available to 21st Century Turkey Institute members.
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