If present talks for a Cyprus solution fail, the inevitable answer might have to be a negotiated division of the island
By Andreas Tryfon
On August 18, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said that “in the event the talks failed to yield results, there was no Plan B – there was no need for one”.
When Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides was asked a similar question in the past he also said that “we have no plan B”.
The fact however is that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have pursued a Plan B for years. Turkey has been gradually turning north Cyprus into a Turkish province in every way. It supplies it with water, electricity, exercises administrative control etc. The aim, if not annexation, is international recognition of the north and a 50-50 split of hydrocarbon resources among other things. This is Turkey’s plan B.
What about ourselves? It is said that if the talks fail “things will stay as they are”. There is even a fear among many that Turkey could expand the occupation. The fact is that we do not have ‘a plan B’.
Yet when one negotiates, it is imperative to have a Plan B. In the 1970s, the Harvard Negotiation Project (“Getting to Yes” by R Fisher and W Ury) pointed out, that “if you are dealing with a more powerful side, you must develop your ‘Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement’ (BATNA) otherwise you are doomed”.
The reason is that if the other side is not forthcoming, you must have in mind the alternative that strengthens you and stops you from making mistaken concessions.
What should our Plan B or BATNA be?
None of our political parties says what our Plan B is, or could be, even though its necessity is becoming obvious.
The two basic standpoints of our political parties are inadequate.
For simplicity, let us name them the “Yes” and the “No” approaches.
The “Yes” approach that embraces the view “any solution will do” or “we have no other choice” does not answer the following very basic and important question:
If Turkey continues to want half of everything, intervention ‘rights’ (or guarantees), a big number of settlers remaining, financial contributions from the Greek Cypriots, offer nothing as compensation and agree to a minimal return of properties, should we still agree to a deal?
The “No” approach, which sees every concession as “unacceptable” and believes in an honourable and workable settlement also needs to answer the following very basic important question:
As all signs show that Turkey wants to maintain its influence and control over the Turkish Cypriot side and is not conceding much (that is, so far, but many Greek Cypriots live in hope) what should we do? Stay as we are now?
In both cases, these questions must be answered comprehensively and convincingly.
The National Council and ALL political parties should be made to agree about what we would do if the talks failed.
I believe a Plan B should consist of the following:
- Push for a Plan B to be promoted and established in the case of no agreement (and continue negotiations) by the UN. This would bring more ‘balance’. Turkey, of course, wants the leverage. Why is 38 per cent of territory still occupied? We should have never stopped demanding that Turkey withdrew from as much territory as possible. This should be our concluding assertion in any announcement we make.
- Pursue as far as possible defence agreements with countries that have common interests with us.
- Maintain and improve our defence as effectively as we can so we can stop any possible advance by Turkish troops for a few days at least until we get help or involvement from outside powers and organisations.
- And, of course, we must strengthen our economy.
Alternatively, if Turkey remains intransigent, another Plan B, which perhaps would be more in line with the feelings of the majority of Greek Cypriots, would be to give up on the idea of a federal settlement and aim for the continuation of the Republic of Cyprus. Accept that our island is temporarily occupied by Turkey, insist on the withdrawal of occupation troops and also take the suggested defensive actions.
The political parties should meet and discuss all this and by answering the two basic “Yes” and “No” scenarios mentioned above, they could perhaps find common ground.
There are consultants specialising in securing agreement between sides with differing views. Called ‘facilitation’, it is a methodology for guiding groups toward realising their problem-solving potential and agreeing on what to do.
So what is the conclusion if “the solution” cannot possibly be accepted? What should be done if our Plan B – push for partial troop withdrawal, defence agreements and stronger defence – does not materialise? Should we be left at the mercy of Turkey and President Erdogan?
I believe the UN, the US and the EU and the various mediators should have their own Plan B, one that is based on the island becoming two entities, which would be “imposed” if things do not work out. Such a solution would be a sad one and contrary to our idea of fairness, but I believe it is a way out of an impasse. After all, the first priority should be for all people, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, to have a future without fear of conflict. Let me give an example:
A reasonable person would think that since Turkey invaded in 1974 to re-establish ‘peacefully’ the constitutional order, ‘save’ the Turkish Cypriots and stop union with Greece, then the foreign ‘Plan B’ (two entities) should be: Turkey withdraws from the 38 per cent of the territory it occupies and keeps 20 per cent (the proportion of the Turkish Cypriot population) and the two sides would continue negotiating to find a form of cooperation. If, and only if, there is an agreement, which would include additional net compensation, the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ should be recognised.
Furthermore, we could have some form of cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and the ‘TRNC’. Then the Turkish Cypriots would be able to have their guarantees from Turkey and as many Turkish settlers they wish to have.
All other issues would be solved and hydrocarbon resources shared along population proportions (80 per cent and 20 per cent). All the above requires a lot of effort to materialise but it could be the answer.
However, as reasonable as it may seem, a Plan B with two entities would not be easy to achieve, “in the event the talks failed” because Turkey seems to want much more while we regard two entities as anathema. So far all efforts have been focused on establishing an extremely complicated and unworkable bizonal, bicommunal federation.
This is the tragedy of it all.
Andreas S Tryfon holds an MA in economics and political science