Can there be progress at the Berlin trilateral?
At the invitation of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders will come together at a trilateral summit to discuss ways to resume the collapsed Cyprus talks. The exercise is presented as a prelude to a probable five-party Cyprus conference slated to convene later in December with the three guarantor powers Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, joining the two communal leaders.
Can there be progress at the Berlin trilateral? Can it be possible to convene a five-party conference and launch an invigorated result-oriented grand give-and-take on Cyprus and provide the island a landmark resolution? First of all, the Berlin encounter is going to be realized at the invitation of the U.N. chief, but it was stressed right away that it will be an “unofficial get-together.” Besides, the Greek Cypriot leader himself is quoted by former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat as saying during a recent reception get-together that “It is unofficial. Nothing is expected to come out anyhow. Just a waste of time and money.”
Furthermore, at least for the time being, it is known that Ankara is rather cool to the idea of convening a five-party conference at a time when North Cyprus is heading to a rather important presidential election in early April. Ankara is known to be not getting along well with the committed federalist Mustafa Akıncı. Most probably, Akıncı will use the prospect of the resumption of the Cyprus talks in his election campaign. While, Ankara, which while not abandoning all together with a federation on Cyprus as a goal, has been demanding the inclusion of other options, including a two-state or confederal resolution in the talks.
So, what can be done at the Berlin encounter on Nov. 25? Nothing further than an assessment of the situation. Can anyone claim that the U.N. chief or the two sides are unaware where the two people of the island stand on any heading? That is Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades was indeed right in his assessment that the Berlin encounter will be a waste of time and money.
It must be understood that for progress on the island there is a need for serious mental reform in the Greek Cypriot side, as well as a new understanding regarding guarantees and the future military presence of Turkey on the island. Without Greek Cypriots agreeing that they must share power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality and effective participation in governance there can be no progress. Unless a way is found to satisfy the Turkish Cypriot security concerns and Turkey’s inalienable rights on and around Cyprus, the guarantee system cannot be replaced or reformatted. Greek Cypriots or Akıncı might wish to kick Turkey out of Cyprus while they see no problem with Greek Cypriots developing special defense relations and allocating bases to Russia, France, Greece and Britain, which have two sovereign bases on the island. Can that be reasonable in view of the fact that Turkey has almost 2,000 kilometers on the Mediterranean coast? Let’s be realistic, Turks are not fools. They know that they have strategic interests in the Mediterranean as much as the Greeks, Russians, Americans or the British.
One last word, the Crans Montana round of talks two years ago demonstrated why a federal resolution cannot be reached on Cyprus. It became all the clearer that the federal option is dead and buried and some other ways must be sought. Insistence on a federation will just be a waste of time and energy.