By Ozay Mehmet
EVER since the Greek Cypriot leadership “internationalised” the Cyprus Problem (Cyprob) in 1955, it has been chasing a mirage. The solution lies at home, on the island, requiring an honest compromise with the Turkish Cypriot side, the other major ethnic community.
Internationalisation is like the case of two drunks who, after closing hours, discover that they lost their keys and furiously go out under the street lights looking for them. “Where did you lose your keys?” asks a friend. “Over there in the dark” they answer. “Then why are you looking for them here?” asks the friend. “Beca of se the light here” they answer, smug and confident.
Fifty-two years later, with the latest failure in Crans-Montana, the GC leadership is behaving like the two drunks, desperately realising they are in a dead-end… and have been in one since 1955.
The Cyprob can only be solved at home because it is a domestic conflict between TCs and GCs. Others, the UN, EU, can only contribute as mediators or facilitators. Others, like the UK, Greece and Turkey, have their own interests to push first. Russia, China and others are too remote.
Ethno-nationalism is strong in both zones, as evidenced by the number of Greek and Turkish flags compared with Cypriot ones. There is no more than a handful of idealists and peaceniks who cherish a “common Cypriot” identity. No joint political parties exist. Education is communal, and history and culture reinforce distinct identities. Even naming coffee and the local cheese boil-over into political dispute!
Just accept it and go for friendship: Two communities on a small island forced to live side by side. Define a common agreed border first and let each side govern itself: The GCs in the South having their own State, the TCs likewise in the North.
This sounds like a loose confederation. So be it. Power-sharing, tried in vain in 1960, was unworkable. The UN’s Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation was still-born in 2004 and this sad reality was re-confirmed in Crans-Montana.
Maps already have been exchanged. There is no reason why GC and TC leaders cannot resolve territorial boundaries. Maronites moving north may show the way to solve the refugee problem. Settling Varosha/Maras would go a long way to converting this sad problem into a win-win outcome.
Property claims can be settled through an enriched Property Commission, funded through friendly donors and, if need be, an international pledging conference of guarantors and well-wishers hosted by the UN. The EU would, undoubtedly, embrace both Cypriot States. Any hydrocarbon wealth, if ever discovered, would surely be welcomed by an energy-hungry Turkey just 50 miles to the north. In case of a surplus, it might then be delivered to Europe through those cost-effective Turkish-Greek pipelines, TANAP-TAP.
Cyprus is a small island with a big, bright future. All that is required is rational behaviour. A Cypriot-driven settlement would bring in huge peace dividends for all the island’s people, north and south.
But, first, a new mindset is required to embrace rationality. It is doubtful if the current leadership is up to it. Perhaps the burden of mistrust accumulated is too heavy for them to shift on to a new agenda. Time out may be necessary for tempers to cool down and chart a new road map towards peace and friendship.
The first step is undoubtedly the most difficult. How to break out the existing “unacceptable status quo”? The UN process has now proven that outsiders cannot do it. Islanders must do it themselves.
Two de facto regimes currently exist on the island. The GCs call the north pseudo-state while in Turkish eyes, the All-GC south is illegal. The new, Cypriot-driven agenda must start by mutual recognition as the first step toward normalisation. The rest should be relatively easy. The details are in those huge stacks of documents now gathering dust.
And those Turkish troops and guarantees? Forget it for now. Settle the constitutional order first, and revisit the subject once a sustainable Cyprus is achieved, not before
Ozay Mehmet, Ph.D (Toronto) is Senior Fellow, Modern Turkish Studies, Distinguished Research Professor, International Affairs (Emeritus) at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada