Collapse of the Geneva summit on Cyprus
The Cyprus summit held in Geneva, Switzerland last week was an important event as the parties put forward their views. The meetings were held within the framework of the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, in which both sides were represented as communities. This is an important point. In addition, it should be noted that the summit was held under an informal status in response to a call issued by the U.N. secretary-general for ‘new and creative ideas’.
While the Greek Cypriot side called for the completion of the process within the framework of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Turkish side (Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey) asked for sovereign equality and international status, stating that they will no longer support a bicommunal, federal solution for the island’s four-decade division.
The political chaos created by Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades in the last U.N. talks in Crans Montana in 2017, due to his willingness to reach a solution and his diluting of the principle of political equality, have provided a unique opportunity to the Turkish side.
Turkey wants to preserve its legal power it gained by the Treaty of Guarantee in 1960.Ankara argues that any federation based on the Greek Cypriot sides’ “zero troops, zero guarantees” formula on Cyprus would harm the Turkish-Greek balance established in 1960 because the federal state would become a member of the European Union. One of the guarantors, the United Kingdom, has sovereign bases on the island even though it is no longer an EU member, while Greece’s expectation for integration with Cyprus would be realised as it is already a member of the EU.
The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which Turkey, Britain and Greece signed to guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus, allows the three co-signing countries to unilaterally intervene militarily in the case of the failure of a multilateral response to a crisis on Cyprus.
However, according to diplomatic convergences between the sides reached at the end of the 2008-2017 negotiation period, it was very clear that the constituent states of a federal structure would have the power to conclude bilateral international agreements in many areas such as the economy, tourism, and culture and that former international protocols would still be applicable, provided that they were not in contravention of the constitution. Therefore, economic and social relations between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot state would have been maintained at the highest level through such bilateral agreements.
Ersin Tatar, who represent the secessionist tradition of Rauf Denktaş, who served as president from 1983 until 2005, won the most votes in both a first and second round of an election for president that concluded in October thanks to Turkey’s political interference in the process. He was declared the "spokesperson" of the ‘separate state’.
Ankara ensured Tatar’s election to defend its secessionist argument and to re-establish its influence over state affairs. This occurred despite the political will for a federation expressed by the Turkish Cypriots in an April 24, 2004 referendum on reunification. It seems that the document presented by Tatar in Geneva has been rejected outright. Nevertheless, it is a fact that he and Turkey achieved what they wanted and had their secessionist arguments recorded.
The six-point plan presented by Tatar are not the product of any strategic thinking aimed at reaching a solution with Greek Cypriots. The goal was to create a so-called equality between the parties using the status of the Republic of Cyprus, of which Turkish Cypriots are co-founders as per international law but have not been a part of since 1964.
The Turkish proposal aims to obtain a safeguard from the U.N. Security Council followed by cooperation between the two states and then a solution. It foresees no change to the guarantor system on the island, which involves Greece, Turkey and the Britain. There is no need to tell the rest. These demands are things that an EU member state would never accept.
The fundamental question here is the following:
If Anastasiades would have said “I made a big mistake in Crans Montana and I accept the Turkish Cypriots’ effective participation. In other words, a rotating presidency and one affirmative vote of both communities in every federal institution and let’s finish this in three months”, would the negotiating table still be overturned by the Turkish Cypriot side like that? It would, because this is what Tatar's mandate was.
The following decision was taken by the Turkish National Security Council (NSC) on March 30:
“It was stated that, in the meetings to be held in the upcoming period, it is indispensable to discuss a comprehensive and lasting solution which takes into account the realities of the island and is based on equity on the basis of two independent states instead of the approaches that have not yielded any results for half a century and ignored the Turkish presence."
The main issue is that Turkey was convinced that its political hegemony on the island would end with a comprehensive settlement model based on political equality. That is why it made sure Tatar was elected and then guided him in the way it wanted.
This strategic thinking and belief are the reasons why the federation has been rejected. I believe this is also the reason why Turkish Cypriot political will is ignored or undermined.
Of course, this political approach is built on ideology rather than real politics or pragmatic considerations. It is not possible to expect anything from Tatar, who interprets history and politics irrationally by saying: “A lot has changed in the region. Nothing is the same as it is used to be. That is why talks for a federation have been exhausted.” He speaks in accordance with Turkey’s NSC decision. He has neither the capacity nor the will to say anything beyond that or exert any influence over Ankara.
Now comes the British stance. Tatar stated in an interview on May 1 in Yenidüzen newspaper that he was waiting for the British and that they would take some steps. The claim that British policy, which has been quite crafty in dividing Cypriots, may now be allegedly moving from 'de facto' to 'de jure' division is thought-provoking. Also, it is interesting to see that the UK was explicitly mentioned at the Geneva meeting. The UK is the ‘penholder’ of UNSC draft resolutions on Cyprus and it pretends to be in search of a (solution) model as if a decentralised federation has never been considered.
What response will Turkey get at the EU Council meeting scheduled in June regarding its expectation for the expansion of its customs union with the bloc? Will the Republic of Cyprus and Greece, which have exercised their veto rights so far, take a different approach in exchange for bargaining on Cyprus? What about the tension to be caused by a potential face-off between NATO members Turkey and Greece in the eastern Mediterranean due to the impasse on Cyprus? I will talk a lot about those questions and similar ones in the coming days.
The prospects of a solution on Cyprus seems very slim in the short run.
Peace, as desired by the two Cypriot communities, continues to be postponed due to nationalist moves by the political elites of both sides as well as the guarantors’ national interests and games regarding their respective positions in the region including their secessionist arguments.
Asım Akansoy is a deputy for the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) of northern Cyprus.