A settlement model for Cyprus

In northern Cyprus, there are two official positions regarding a Cyprus settlement. The president and the leftist bloc of parties vehemently argue that the best way forward is to continue seeking a federal resolution even if the Greek Cypriot left and right remain reluctant to be their companions on such a road. The two-way coalition government, on the other hand, included for the first time ever a two-state resolution of the Cyprus problem as its target. On both flanks, of course, there are further details that produce further division. Should, for example, there be a European Union roof and a prohibition that the two states should not have the right to merge with any other country, apart from the other state on the island?

Irrespective of positions, it is a fact that not only supporters of a federal resolution, but those supporting a two-state resolution have been immersed in intense domestic propaganda as well as diplomatic contacts to garner, if not support, a degree of understanding from the international community. Also, it is no secret that apart from United Nations-sponsored Cyprus talks, there are some other discreet mechanisms under way, including but, of course, not restricted to secret hotel room encounters of Turkish officials – including Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu – building brick-by-brick terms of  full partition on the island. It is no secret that not only he officially suggested an obscure “loose federation” but Greek Cypriot Nikos Anastasiades told to the face of both Çavuşoğlu and Akıncı that he could not deliver a settlement based on political equality, effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in governance or the requirement of a yes vote from at least one Turkish Cypriot cabinet member for the government to take a decision on any issue. It was he, as well, who told both Akıncı and Çavuşoğlu that perhaps the best way forward might be to seek a confederation or a two-state resolution.

EU membership is the problematic element for the nationalists, while it is a uniting element not only for the pro-federalists but irrespective of political standing, the Turkish Cypriot youth. That position is particularly understandable when in the absence of EU-membership all resolution ideas will be deficient. Federation will be devoid of a confidence factor – a fundamental requirement of a sustainable deal – or in a two-state resolution the Turkish Cypriot state might walk a similar road that the Hatay republic walked in 1939 a short while after becoming independent. Besides, only with an EU roof the two sides on the island can build a common future and indeed serve as a catalyst of a far bigger goal: Better relations between Turkey and Greece.

Federation on Cyprus appears impossible particularly because of the Greek Cypriot obsession with not sharing power with Turkish Cypriots, but there are other complications, all of which are indeed of existential importance. What will happen to the 1960 guarantee scheme, for example, or the tens of thousands of mainland Turkish people who made northern Cyprus their new home since 1974? Neither Turkey can abandon its rights and privileges emanating from the Guarantee Treaty (that made Turkey along with Greece and Britain guarantor powers for Cyprus) nor can thousands of people that made Cyprus their new home be kicked off of the island. Property ownership will be yet another problem that might land the two people of the island in a bloodbath again if a wholesome resolution is ignored. Individual rights are, of course, sacrosanct, but there ought to be compensation, exchange and such tools to be employed apart from restoration of former property rights.

On the other hand, in a two-state resolution, EU membership is an important element to win the support of the youth apart from filling in the economic as well as the physical and psychological security deficiency that might be produced with Turkey’s troop withdrawal. Naturally, in such a deal, Turkey’s guarantee – if it continued – can be valid only for the northern state. Can Turkey accept such a situation? Worse, in a two-state deal, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the island will as well be divided. Can Turkish Cypriots accept to give away hydrocarbon riches in the southern EEZ of Cyprus? Can Turkey recognize Greek Cypriot EEZ?

Far worse, what might be the implications of Cyprus setting a model for independence aspiring communities not only in Europe but in Turkey’s close vicinity as well?

Rather than antagonistic approaches, perhaps it is time to concentrate on all resolution ideas, discuss pros and cons and in full awareness that any settlement will be based on some very painful compromise, perhaps rather than demands and red lines, we ought to make a list of issues that can be compromised for a common better future on Cyprus.

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