The Cyprus negotiations have reached the stage when the UN should resume shuttle diplomacy, President Mustafa Akinci told Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’.
Speaking from his office in Nicosia to Murat Yetkin, a regular columnist for Hurriyet, the President said that “too much effort has been spent so far. It shouldn’t be wasted.”
Murat Yetkin, in his column in Hurriyet writes that President Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades have spent nearly a year, trying to find a solution that will reunite Cyprus. The island was divided after the Turkish military intervention in 1974 in response to a right-wing Greek military coup. Turkey justified its action by saying that the coup threatened the lives of the Turkish Cypriots.
The UN-led talks managed to bring the five parties together around the same table for the first time in many years: The Greek and Turkish Cypriot governments and the three guarantor countries of the 1960 foundation agreement: Greece, Turkey and the UK.
They are attempting to use a model based on a federal Cyprus Republic with two communities. However, even after four decades, for some, memories remain fresh.
The greater majority (around 90%) of Turkish Cypriots think that Turkey’s military presence should be maintained, if only as a symbol, in the event of a Cyprus settlement. The Greek Cypriots say that guarantees for an EU country are unnecessary and outdated. Additionally, most Greek Cypriots do not believe that the Turkish Cypriots, as the minority community, should have equal rights.
That makes Anastasiades’ and Akinci’s job even more difficult. But they have still managed to bring the talks up to a certain point.
Yetkin continues by saying that the Turkish Cypriots voted ‘yes’ to the Annan Plan in 2004, but the Greek Cypriots voted against. Following which the EU broke its promise and maintained embargoes against the north and let Cyprus into the European Union.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was Prime Minister at the time, will not be so easily fooled this time, Yetkin writes.
The Greek Cypriots, with their eyes on local gas finds, are less motivated to find a solution, unless prompted by the EU. The Turkish Cypriots have far greater incentives, as they will become part of the EU.
President Akinci has pointed out that the two Cypriot communities, with equal political rights, face a brighter future together.
In practical terms, conveying gas from Cyprus, via Turkey to Europe is the most feasible option. Water is already supplied to the island from Turkey and electricity is next, via undersea cables.
Turkish Cypriot community leaders have always known that they would have to make territorial concessions to achieve a solution, but Akinci is cautious. “I cannot take any agreement to my people for a vote without political recognition and Turkey’s guarantees,” he told Yetkin.
A Cyprus settlement could be a positive influence in the region, noting the dire problem of the Syrian civil war and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Although there is no longer any bloodshed on Cyprus, the continuation of the Cyprus problem hinders many positive opportunities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East – one of the most problematic regions in the world, he concludes.