Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Bridging the chasm over guarantees

Guarantees could be likened to the power of Queen Elizabeth. Powerful in theory but not in practice

IT APPEARS that the biggest obstacle to finding a settlement of the Cyprus problem is the guarantees of Turkey. Mustafa Akinci and the rest of the Turkish Cypriot leadership have repeatedly made it clear that they would not accept a settlement without Turkey’s guarantees.

All the Turkish Cypriot political parties want guarantees to be maintained. Meanwhile President Anastasiades, the Greek government, via Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, and all the Greek Cypriot parties consider the abolition of guarantees necessary for an agreement.

For this obstacle to be overcome each side must comprehend the concerns of the other. This is perhaps one of the few times that both sides are right on the same issue, which nevertheless they analyse from different viewpoints. It reminds us of the Hegel-Marx dialectic – theses, antitheses, synthesis. What is needed in this specific case is synthesis.

As regards our position, Anastasiades and other political leaders have argued sensibly that a modern state does not need guarantor powers. EVERYONE AGREES with this. If these thoughts were presented to an evaluating committee of a university, made of up of professors and political science experts, all academics – even Turkish academics – would have given them full marks. But this impressive grade would leave Turkish Cypriots unmoved because it does not take into account their psychology.

What concerns Turkish Cypriots is not the territorial integrity of Cyprus but their physical integrity. Everyone who knows the events that took place between 1963 and 1974 would fully understand this fear. In other words, their negative predisposition towards the proposal to abolish Turkish guarantees is not an innate inclination, but a fear that was fashioned by historical events and is comparable to our fear of a repeat of the 1974 invasion. Justified as we are, not wanting to live under Turkey’s sword of Damocles, the Turkish Cypriots are as justified in seeking to secure their safety by some form of guarantees.

So we should not expect a convergence of views on this matter. Fear, unfortunately, reigns in both communities. As the famous Irish statesman Edmund Burke said “no passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear”.

Many Greek Cypriots, especially the young, are unaware of the events of 1963-74 that left indelible marks on the memories of many Turkish Cypriots. Some of them to save their lives were forced to abandon their houses, which our ‘fighters’, combining business with pleasure, plundered as happened in my village – Lefkara. In some other villages, for example Mathiatis, the ‘fighters’ set ablaze Turkish Cypriot houses after the plundering. Other Turkish Cypriots had relatives that were murdered (I will not now talk about the 660 Turkish Cypriot missing of the ’63-’74 period). It is well-known to everyone that the Greek Cypriot murderers roam free in the south, with the tolerance of the authorities. They have been forgiven countless sins.

The question is how do we escape from this labyrinth? Taking into account the fact that the Turkish Cypriots do not trust any country – nor the EU and the UN – for their security (this had been made clear by Akinci and earlier by negotiator Ozdil Nami), one solution would be for us to accept some guarantees for a specific period of time (that is negotiable) after the passing of which they would be abolished. There would be, therefore, a transitional period. The guarantees could also be amended so as to exclude the unilateral intervention of one country.

The expectation is that the peaceful co-existence of the two constituent states would in the meantime have rendered guarantees inactive and therefore superfluous. If a settlement is considered just on both sides of the dividing line, it would create confidence between the two communities to such a degree that guarantees would become a dead letter. There are many countries with constitutions that are littered with dead letters.

For instance, the British are not at all worried that the queen has, at least in theory, huge powers in her hands. According to the British constitution, which is unwritten, the queen has the power to dissolve parliament and the parties, dismiss the prime minister and establish a dictatorship. In reality, though, the queen at all times and without exception acts in accordance with the wishes of the prime minister, and therefore the British have no reason to worry about their freedom.

If common sense prevails the obstacle of the guarantees will be overcome. Such a development would have a beneficial effect on the negotiations and our relations with the Turkish Cypriots. The only possible ‘minus’ is that it could cause a major rift in the incredibly surreal love affair between the extreme rightist Turkish Cypriots and our rejectionists.


George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist

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