By Fikri Toros…..
President of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce
The ongoing Cyprus peace process has reached to its most challenging hurdle yet. Fears over traumas lived in recent decades have fostered and reminded all that a profound degree of mistrust still prevails. Whilst this is a typical trait of peace processes witnessed in recent history, objective analyses and correct diagnosis must be made without further delay. For a result oriented remedy, a thorough tactical review together with concrete economic and social cooperation must follow simultaneously.
The Cypriot “Leader-led” process over the course of the past eight years has fallen far short of the participatory element it had promised. It’s clear that the Leaders have reached a point where political negotiations no longer suffice on their own!
To revitalize the peace process a comprehensive assessment of facts, abandonment of all reasons to blame, together with an energized methodology are absolutely imperative.
In more specific terms, the following principles should be adhered:
- ) Adoption and implementation of a new approach that will not only capitalize on existing convergences, but also will oblige a prompt and irrevocable resumption of the Cyprus Conference within a genuinely participatory environment. In this way, parties concerned will be relieved of the influence of mistrust, and enabled to compromise simultaneously to “tie the loose ends”
- ) Develop an effective process for resolving existing deadlocks in the talks, by generating and considering multiple alternatives. Such an energy is essential if the current polarization of the two sides is to be overcome in a creative and rational manner. Whilst external support might appear promising as a way to overcome deadlocks, it would be far superior if the problem solving and deadlock resolution capacity of Cypriots is enhanced, as this would impact communal faith in the process too. The case of reaching to the peace agreements in other international conflicts where participatory processes were involved has proven to be successful, hence the intersection of business and politics must be noted.
- ) Develop mechanisms of public consultation, to ensure a two-way communication between the leadership and society at large, thus creating a peace process which is owned by all concerned. Societal ownership is the only possible basis for long term political stability, both in seeking a settlement but also in the post conflict era. With such sense of ownership, effective engagement of society at large in a transparent peace process will be enhanced, minimising room for blame games, information distortion and jeopardy through intransigent positions.
- ) Embed effective Confidence Building Measures more firmly within the peace process, in such a way that they have maximum impact. By changing their everyday living conditions, relieve Cypriots of their deprivations under the status quo. Demostrate how a settlement will enhance prosperity; instead of keeping it in words. Developing social cohesion and fostering reconciliation are essential prerequisites and companions for any political settlement.
- ) Institute a monitoring and auditing mechanism, to assess levels of adherence to the above principles as the peace process moves forward. Without an independent mechanism to evaluate adherence to principles, even the best designed process will gradually disintegrate under the weight of accumulated political tendencies.
This dormant period in the talks represents both a threat and an opportunity. Whilst we all hope negotiations will resume in weeks ahead, negligence to the above may lead to the recurrence of such disappointments. Meaningful change in Cyprus will only take root via genuine engagement of the public throughout the peace process.