Cyprus issue: resolution or perpetuation? – Jan. 16, 2017

The Cyprus problem is perpetuated despite years of international efforts to resolve it. However, the Geneva meeting has created a great deal of optimism among the inhabitants of the island that the solution is close and that its outcome will lead to the creation of a united sovereign state, ending the division status. The promising Geneva meeting, due to the international declarations and statements by Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, has created hopes also for those who closely follow the Cypriot that a viable solution is feasible.

After the end of the meeting and the statements of the two leaders, it became apparent that there was no progress and that things were at the zero point. A reliable source assured me that two suggestions fell on the table. One from the Greek Cypriot and the second from the Turkish Cypriot side. The Greek side called for the reunification of the island, the redesign of the map of the northern part with the recovery of areas and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from it. The Turkish proposal provided for the Turkish troops to remain as a guarantor and protector of the northern section, to increase the powers of the Turkish Cypriot “government” in security and economic matters, and then to discuss reunification.

The two proposals were not accepted either way. The Greek Cypriot side rightly treats Turkish troops as occupying forces and the Turkish Cypriot side feels that the Turkish minority is allegedly threatened with extinction by the Greek presence. The Turks also said that the existence of British forces in Cyprus is the same as the existence of Turkish forces. Of course, the British Foreign Minister, who was present at the meeting, confirmed that Britain is ready to withdraw its troops and close the base as soon as possible if the meeting comes to an agreement. Negotiations after the end of the meeting were again at zero.

The geopolitical atmosphere prevailing in the region in particular and in the world in general is not favorable for finding a viable solution for the Cyprus problem. The escalation of the crisis between the Russians and the Americans on the one hand and the tense US-Turkish relations due to the non-extradition of Fethullah Gülen on the other, as well as the EU’s move away from the idea of ​​Turkey joining the Union due to its approach with Russia, create a climate of mistrust among the parties involved in finding a solution to the Cyprus crisis.

On the other hand, Turkey and Erdoğan personally do not want to unite Cyprus, but rather to annex the northern part of the island and to become the eighty-second province of the Turkish state. Of course, Erdoğan knows very well that this is not going to happen and that the Europeans would not allow him to do so. However, he seeks to use it as a card to increase his chances of amending the Turkish constitution.

Despite the fact that the AKP has a strong majority, it needs the support of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which holds about 16% of the votes. The Nationalist Movement strongly supports the expansion of Turkish lands to include areas previously under Ottoman occupation. Thus, Erdoğan uses the talks on the fate of Cyprus as a way to attract the support of the Party of the Nationalist Movement to modify, with its vote, the governmental system to presidential democracy. In addition, the Turkish people will see Erdoğan as a hero who has increased Turkish lands, as was the case with İsmet İnönü when he incorporated to Turkey Hatay province which belonged to Syria.

The difference of the Geneva meeting from the previous bilateral meetings is Russia’s attitude. Although theoretically it ought to be the strongest supporter of the Greek Cypriots because of Orthodoxy that unites them, as before, Russia is currently supporting the Turkish plan under the table. Moscow is aware of the tensions between the EU and the US and Turkey, and will push as far as it can Ankara away from NATO and closer to it. The annexation of the northern part of Cyprus to Turkey will therefore contribute to the further strengthening of Russian-Turkish relations by creating a Russian military base on the island as a counterweight to NATO’s presence in the Mediterranean.

In conclusion, the crisis is still largely affected by the citizens of both sides. The northern part suffers from major economic pressures imposed by the Turkish government to push it into secession. The population of the South wants to regain its lost properties and the lands that belong to it, and at the same time by no means it thinks to unite with Greece.

If the two sides were alone at the negotiating table, finding a solution would be more likely, as it was clear from the outset. It was also torpedoed by both the Greek and the Turkish side. Let’s wait for the resumption of talks on the 18th of January. Based on the developments that will emerge, although it is unlikely that there will be a definitive solution, one will see who is a true patriot and who a big traitor.