In an podcast interview by Cyprus Mail journalist Rosie Charalambous with an expert on the Cyprus problem, James Ker-Lindsay, Charalambous asks if there is any hope of solving the Cyprus problem after the Cyprus Summit in Mont Pèlerin, Switzerland hit the buffers on Monday.
Senior Visiting Fellow of the LSE and long-time follower of the Cyprus issue, Ker-Lindsay said that he felt very disappointed with results of the Cyprus Summit and that the leaders needed to consider the consequences of not resuming the talks. With a change of leadership, who knows what could happen in future, he asked. Currently both leaders are in sync, he said.
Interventions have been made by Turkey and Greece in the negotiations, Prime Minister Alex Tsipras last week laid down the condition the Turkey would need to withdraw her troops before Greece would attend any five-party meeting on security and guarantees. Turkey said she would seriously consider annexing the TRNC if the talks failed.
Ker-Lindsay said that both sides need to consider that eventuality, since Turkey’s conservatism and undemocratic behaviour was becoming increasingly worrying.
People do believe that Turkey is on board. Erdogan, he said, is not personally interested in Cyprus and would be happy to see the talks concluded. In addition, he noted that the negotiations are more Cypriot oriented than before.
However, returning to the possibility of annexation of the TRNC, Kerr-Lindsay points to the example of the independent Ukrainian Republic of the Crimea, which decided to return to the Russian Federation on 18th March 2014. After the uproar which followed, people have got over that, he said. President Erdogan will be thinking the same thing, particularly now that Turkey’s EU accession ambitions are over.
Cypriots on both sides of the divide are worried about potential annexation of the TRNC with Turkey. Charalambous noted that a few days ago, there was a mass rally, with thousands of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, held on the island. This was an unprecedented event, she said. They were all demanding the reunification of Cyprus.
In an attempt to find a solution both sides need to compromise further. Morphou/Guzelyurt – a red line for President Erdogan, is just 1.2% of the island and could scupper the talks, Charalambous said.
Ker-Lindsay replied that the Turkish Cypriots currently hold 36% of the land which is disproportionate given their population numbers. On the other hand, the Greek Cypriots do administer 64% of the territory. In theory, 70,000 of Greek Cypriots could return to the north, when in reality it’s likely that only 50,000 would want to return. It would be a good idea to get an idea the actual numbers of people who want to return. The Greek Cypriots need to drop the attitude of having all the historic rights, when potentially facing failed talks and the possibility of a solid military border placed between the two communities and an island divided forever.