By Demetris Papadopoulos
BEFORE the peace talks had even begun a public debate about the issue of guarantees, which was labelled a ‘red line’, was initiated. This discussion is neither innocent nor random. It is part of the predictable ploy of creating technical difficulties whenever there is a new effort for a Cyprus settlement.
First, the continuation of the 1960s guarantee system has been included in all proposals for a settlement submitted by the UN ever since 1974. At no point during the negotiation of the Annan plan was the modification of the system of guarantee raised, let alone its abolition. Not even Tassos Papadopoulos in his TV address about the 2004 referendum, when he tore apart every aspect of the Annan plan, made any reference to the guarantees.
It could be argued that Cyprus’ accession to the EU rendered the guarantees redundant. However, the legislature in voting through the EU accession treaty confirmed that the 1960 treaties would remain in force (Protocol 3 of the Accession Act), stating that “accession must not affect the rights and obligations of the parties of the Treaty of Establishment (of the Cyprus Republic).”
Nobody doubts that security guarantees of a member-state of the EU by third countries with a bad historical record are an anachronism. But, in essence, after a settlement guarantees would only have a symbolic value. Turkey has not been in Cyprus for 40 years because the Treaty of Guarantee permits this.
On the contrary, if Turkey complied with the Treaty, it would have withdrawn its troops after it restored constitutional order.
The Turkish army remains in Cyprus with the tolerance of the international community, including that of ‘friendly countries’. Nowhere do the UN resolutions, which we consider gospel, mention the withdrawal of the Turkish troops. Since 1974, the unanimously backed Resolution 3212 (it was voted by Cyprus as well) of the UN General Assembly links the withdrawal of the foreign troops to solution of the Cyprus problem.
Turkey invaded in 1974 because international conditions permitted it. For the creation of these conditions, our then leadership was to an extent responsible for failing to bolster our independence and failed to correctly evaluate the balance of power when it decided to undermine the London-Zurich agreements. If we plan to follow a similar course now, we will be at risk with or without guarantees.
There are plenty of examples in world history of invasion and occupation of countries without the pretext of guarantees. Most recently, Russia did not annex Crimea because it had a legal right to intervene.
The most effective guarantee would be to render, through our behaviour and actions, another military intervention by Turkey unjustifiable. The implementation of the EU acquis in all Cyprus would be the most reliable guarantee. Another factor of security would be political stability and the creation of conditions for development and prosperity through co-operation with the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. When there is economic co-operation produces stability, security and prosperity, guarantees would abolish themselves.
There are far more important matters we should negotiate about, the economics of a settlement for example. It is the economy that will determine the viability of a settlement and not whether the guarantee system is continued.
Some modification of the system of guarantees is expected. As long as a settlement is within an EU framework any guarantees would have to be compatible with the security framework of the West. This prospect seems to worry the rival sphere of influence which has been trying to cast aspersions on the peace process, because it believes its interests are better served by an unsolved problem.
Cyprus has paid a heavy price for its tendency to create imaginary enemies and phoney friends. Now it is time for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to define their common interests within a pragmatic international framework. If we cannot comprehend what this framework is, we have no reason to negotiate for a settlement and we may as well stay in the vicious circle of confrontations we have been in since 1960.