By Christos P Panayiotides
One of the readers of my article of last Sunday (‘The one and only red line’) felt the need to voice his reservations as to whether President Erdogan would be willing to come to an arrangement that would solve the Cyprus problem. The same reader also expressed his reservations as to whether the Turkish Cypriots would be willing to entrust the Greek Cypriots for their well-being and safety.
It would be a mistake to argue that these reservations are unfounded. However, I fail to understand why some people choose to use these concerns as a basis for forcefully arguing that we should not enter into any form of a negotiation process that would seek to bridge the differences which keep the two sides in conflict. Is it the fear that the Turks have better negotiating skills than the Greeks? Is it the concern that the Turks are in a more powerful position and, therefore, they could twist the Greek arm in a negotiation process? Or is it the feeling that we are very busy with other more important things and we cannot afford to waste our time in negotiations that will not lead anywhere? All these reactions suggest that we are not genuinely interested in seeking a solution to our problem.
My reading of what our neighbours would probably be willing to accept for arriving at a mutually acceptable compromise is different to that of many Cypriots, hence their reluctance to enter into negotiations with Turkey. My position is very simple. Let’s give it a try in a manner that would clearly indicate that we mean business. If our attempt fails because of Turkish intransigence, we stand to gain because we will show the world that we are acting in good faith and we are genuinely committed to arrive at a win-win formula.
I believe that the Turkish government would probably be willing to come to an arrangement that could be acceptable to the Greek Cypriots, provided that Cyprus commits itself to:
- recognising Turkey as a leading player in the eastern Mediterranean;
- accepting and being bound by the decision of an international arbitration court concerning the delineation of the respective Turkish and Cypriot EEZs;
- allowing the Turkish Cypriots to actively participate in the management of the under-the-sea-wealth of Cyprus;
- hearing and accepting what the Turkish Cypriots consider as necessary arrangements for the protection of their safety and their well-being, which would not pose a threat to the Greek Cypriots;
- pressing on with the negotiations for expeditiously resolving the “internal” issues of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bicommunal, bizonal federation, with political equality and effective participation of the two communities, as provided by the Resolutions of the Security Council, in line with the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014, the convergences attained so far in the negotiation process and the Framework of the Secretary General of the United Nations of 30 June 2017 with its six parameters;
- supporting a special relationship between the EU and Turkey, which would elevate the latter to the position of the most favoured nation outside the EU;
- supporting the provision of substantial economic aid on the part of the EU for enabling Turkey to manage the immigration problems she is confronted with.
In return for the above, Turkey should unreservedly accept the need to secure the political and economic independence of both the northern and southern parts of Cyprus and the substitution of the UK, Turkey and Greece as “guarantors” of Cyprus by other mechanisms. These would be more likely to play a more constructive role in helping the Cypriots to set up a federal state that is independent but fully integrated into the European Union. Turkey should also accept the obligation to neutralise those extremist elements on the Turkish Cypriot side that may be tempted to undermine the prospects of a successful implementation of the agreements concluded, provided that Greece undertakes a similar obligation in respect of any extremist elements on the Greek Cypriot side.
Both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots have a strong incentive to seek and secure the resolution of the Cyprus problem: the long-term survival of both is a function of their ability to attain this goal. The ongoing participation of Cyprus in the shaping of the future of the European Union could easily be undermined by the persistence of the problem ad infinitum. Greece and Turkey also have a strong incentive to secure the resolution of this problem, which has proved a thorn in their relationship over a very long period of time.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia