By Mehmet Nesip Ogun………
Professor of Security studies at Columbia University, New York…….
After the Greek Cypriot Assembly’s decision to commemorate the January 1950 referendum on ENOSIS (Cyprus Island will politically and administratively be part of Greece) at public schools in South Cyprus on February 10, 2017; ongoing negotiations literally stopped for two months.
On February 16, 2017, the leaders had met at the UN-mandated buffer zone in Cyprus. According to press, Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı raised the problem and stated that the Greek Cypriot Assembly’s decision is wrong and it would harm the negotiations. Upon this statement, Greek Cypriot Leader Mr. Nikos Anastasiades remarked that he had nothing to say and left the negotiations. Even though this incident was told exactly like that by Mr. Akıncı, United Nations special envoy for Cyprus, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, declared the opposite and stated that Mr.Akıncı decided to leave the meeting after a while, according to various press sources.
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and his spokesperson Mr. Barış Burcu repeatedly stated that if the Greek Cypriot Assembly would not void this decision, the Turkish side would not participate in ongoing negotiations. Nevertheless, the Greek Cypriot assembly decided to give this commemoration authority to the Ministry of Education on 7th April 2017 as a result of the Turkish Cypriots’ determined stance and the leaders agreed to meet on April 11th and 20th, and 2nd, 11th and 17th May.
Cyprus negotiations have been going on for 50 years. There is no little detail that has not been mentioned during the talks. However, there are some main disagreements between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Negotiations are based on six different topics which are territory, property, economy, EU Relations, governance, security and guarantees. There are conflicts of ideas under almost each topic.
Under the EU Relations topic, the Turkish side would want EU agreements to be effective after the transition period after a possible solution and want the agreement to be part of the EU’s primary law. Conversely, the Greek side would want the EU agreements to be effective right after the solution and oppose that the agreement be part of the EU’s primary law.
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has said many times that rotating presidency and equal political participation is one of the Turkish side’s red lines, Mr. Anastasiades stated in different platforms that the Turkish side is a minority and it shouldn’t expect that minority should be equal to majority. Besides, no positive remarks were made by Mr. Anastasiades about rotating presidency.
There are also major disagreements on territory and property issues between parties. Both delegations have declared their offer of new territory maps to UN officials during the Geneva talks in January 2017. Nevertheless, both leaders did not agree on maps for new borders and territory. Mr. Akıncı stated that “The map submitted by the Greek Cypriots to the UN is unacceptable”. There is also a big question on how the property issue will be resolved after so many years where many of the properties have been sold to different users throughout the years in both sides.
It could be stated that the main disagreement lies on the security and guarantees topic. The Greek side does not accept any Turkish Military presence on the Island and does not want Turkey as a guarantor power. Nevertheless, the Greek side states that guarantor power is outdated in this era and since the EU could be a guarantor, there is no need for any other guarantor power or countries. On the other hand, the Turkish side wants to keep Turkey as a guarantor country since Turkish Cypriots had so many traumatic experiences between 1963 and 1974.
Nonetheless, as there is no agreed timeline or end line for the negotiations, the leaders will meet several times in April and May. Mr. Akıncı seems more optimistic than his counterpart part Mr. Anastasiades. There is going to be presidential elections in February 2018 in the Greek side and Mr. Akıncı would like to solve the Cyprus problem before the election campaign will start.
Both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is celebrating the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23. As the tradition has been going on for so many years, children from different countries have been coming to TRNC and Turkey to celebrate Children’s Day.
However, the Greek side did not allow Serbian children to pass to the Turkish side to participate in these events. After keeping both Serbian and Russian delegations at Larnaca Airport for many hours, the Greek Cypriots sent them back to their countries.
While the negotiations are going on and there is a big effort to solve the Cyprus problem, the Greek side’s decision raised questions about how will this problem be solved? Since the Greek Cypriots do not have any toleration of Turkish Cypriots’ presence in the International environment, how can the Turkish Cypriot side expect the Greek Cypriot side to resolve the topics mentioned above?