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Akinci’s independence makes him credible

8 May 2015

Mustafa Akinci was always an outsider and in the end he was vindicated. What makes him different from the other candidates is his distance from all the centres of power starting with Ankara, so writes Cengiz Aktar in liberal Turkish daily ‘Taraf’.

He goes on to say that this distance lends authority to what he says. Aktar also believes that now it makes his policies effective. Akinci’s language of independence is also the reason why he is belittled and scorned by Ankara. “Akinci is the answer for the will to oppose the status quo and stalemate.” Could this be a rally cry that Ankara can stomach? Whichever way you look at it, Akinci’s election signals failure for Turkey’s colonial policy and the easy option taken by many political and academic circles that argue “no settlement is the best settlement.” Even the settlers in the TRNC have become Cypriot.

If we look at the Greek Cypriot side, nothing has worked for them. Not relying on mainland Greece like they did at first, not being members of the Euro or the EU, not their tactic of trying to fix the problem by using the EU to put pressure on Turkey, not the policy of isolating northern Cyprus, not the fossil fuel lottery in the southern territorial waters, not even the strategy of going it alone in their tiny corner of the world.

Akinci and Anastasiades are not going to start from scratch. A formula of sorts exists for laying the foundation for a federal Cyprus. Just as with Kashmir and Jerusalem so much has been said and written over the decades with respect to a settlement on Cyprus. The Annan Plan is an encyclopaedia in its own right. The basis for an agreement on many topics has been established over the many years of talks. This time it is understood that progress is going to be made through trust-building measures being decided on and put into effect. Instead of a system of talks taking place behind closed doors, talks that are not public and that are ultimately tiring, it looks like it is going to proceed using concrete topics that are of direct interest to the people. This method will be able to eliminate any underhanded manipulation on Ankara’s part.

The other topic on the agenda is guarantor rights, something Ankara claims all the time. The Guarantee Treaty signed by the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece in 1960 guarantees the existence of the two communities and Cyprus’s independence. It guarantees that Cyprus will not form a union with another country (such as Turkey of Greece) and that the island will not become divided. The treaty does not give Turkey rights over the TRNC, contrary to the arguments being made by Ankara, in seeking rights to explore for fossil fuels and the thinking of a certain individual who has been expressing his ideas about Cyprus. Furthermore, this is a guarantor status that means nothing once the island is divided.

All the same, Turkey has used the Guarantee Treaty to justify all its actions including the military intervention. As such the treaty has always been one of Ankara’s red lines in the talks. Greece for its part maintains that the Guarantee Treaty was voided after Cyprus joined the EU. Just recently Foreign Minister Kochas repeated that Greece no longer wanted to be a guarantor. If the United Kingdom follows suit Ankara could be left all on its own. Furthermore, Anastasiades’ proposals include Cyprus joining NATO, which is a serious alternative to the Guarantee Treaty.

The only obstacle to the historic momentum that has taken place with Akinci being made president is Ankara’s ill-tempered attitude. Be that as it may, Turkey is pretty much all alone in the region and the world and has little to no chance of being able to influence or sabotage the momentum that has been built up on the island and off it. The new state that will be formed on Cyprus in spite of Ankara could be formed in such a way as to increase Turkey’s isolation.

Cengiz Aktar in ‘Taraf’ 5.5.15

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