By Rauf Baker
Considering its location, Cyprus miraculously has kept a distance from the migration turmoil in Europe. For years, it enjoyed stability that prevented political shocks and surprises such as the rise of the far right or left as in many European countries.
Although struck by a financial crisis, like fellow EU countries, the outlook seems promising. The previously mentioned factors pave the way for an agreement to solve the long-standing division caused by the Turkish invasion and qualifies the country to later play an effective European role.
The gas discoveries will, undoubtedly, benefit all Cypriots and will act a unifying factor with Turkish Cypriots who are more than ever in need of their homeland partners at a time when economy in the north is slumping.
Resolving the dispute could open way for a gas pipeline to pass through Turkey, boosting the economy.
The positive indicator is that both parties chose not to let the post-failed coup situation in Turkey around two months ago affect the talks. At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is warming up to Russia which would definitely help in reaching an agreement, considering the strong historic relations between Moscow and Nicosia.
In that regard, diplomats in Moscow do not rule out a possible Russian mediation. Peace prospects appear lucid more than ever, though not imminent. The general atmosphere is in favour of peace, especially with official affirmations that most issues have been resolved and that other matters pending such as security and territories will be put on the table. If both sides manage to reach consensus on those pending issues, Cypriots will see an end to this long dilemma.
Yet, there is still a negative factor. The Turkish Cypriot leadership will surely wait for a green light from Ankara to accept any agreement. The Turkish government, in its turn, is more occupied with its own internal problems as it struggles to eliminate Gülen movement and combat Kurdish fighters inside and outside the borders.
And in spite of all assurances that the failed coup attempt will not undermine negotiations, what happened in Turkey has made it evident that the current Turkish leadership is not qualified to play a role in bridging the gap between the two sides. The instability and the strife simply impede such a role, and those who find a hard time in arranging their own house, cannot give a hand in solving external affairs.
If the international community is willing to achieve a long-lasting peace in Cyprus, it is time to do so. Ankara is now vulnerable, and pressuring it to move forward with a tangible solution that meets the aspiration of the Cypriot people in living in a unified country, can be fruitful.
It should be realised that the longer the talks last, the higher risk. The problem lies in reaching a stalemate and not seizing the opportunity given by progress that has been made so far and the overall circumstances. So, will 2017 be the year of peace in Cyprus?
Rauf Baker is a journalist and researcher with expertise in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean affairs. [email protected]