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A call for both sides to do their homework

By Costas Apostolides

A response to the views of Dr Angelos Syrigos on Turkish annexation of northern Cyprus

AT THE annual memorial of the death of President Tassos Papadopoulos last week, Dr Angelos Syrigos made a major presentation and is reported to have stated that a Turkish annexation of northern Cyprus would be a dismal development, that would, however, have the effect of forcing the Greek Cypriots to realise that the real interlocutor for a Cyprus settlement is Turkey, and not the Turkish Cypriots.

Before commenting on this position, it should be said that as the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs stated this week, Dr Syrigos is a highly-qualified lawyer specialising in international law and foreign affairs. On this there is no doubt, because he graduated from the Law School of Athens University, continued his studies at the Law School of Bristol University where he got his doctorate on “Law and Diplomacy and the Aegean Maritime Zone”, and worked at the “Research Centre for International Law” of Cambridge University.

The Leader of the Democratic Party, Nicolas Papdopoulos, who appears to have endorsed the presentation, criticised the press and the political parties that they misrepresented Dr Syrigos’s views. Averof Neophytou, the leader of the ruling Democratic Rally is on record as stating that Dr Syrigos’ views are dangerous, implying a high-risk policy.

My own view is that nobody should doubt that the Greek Cypriots consider that northern Cyprus is under Turkish occupation, and that the final word depends on Turkey. Yet this is not the whole truth, most of the problems arising in the talks, are due to the difficulties of reaching a reasonable and feasible settlement after 42 years, one where thousands of people will have to be moved to make implementation possible.

Turkish Cypriots with knowledge of political relations between the Turkish Cypriot Community and the Republic of Turkey, state that on the internal aspects of a settlement the Turkish Cypriots have considerable leeway in presenting proposals, but on matters affecting the interests of Turkey, including matters of security of both Turkish Cypriots and of the Republic of Turkey (including territorial adjustment) Ankara is already the interlocutor. Irrespective of this, the majority of Greek Cypriots blame Ankara for all the problems in reaching a settlement.

Therefore, there is no need for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to suffer a Turkish annexation of northern Cyprus, in order that the Greek Cypriots face the reality that Turkey occupies northern Cyprus, or that they should negotiate with Turkey and not with the Turkish Cypriots, as proposed by Dr Syrigos. The Republic of Cyprus is not recognised by Turkey and they would never negotiate directly with the Republic.

But why should such a qualified academic present such a position, which is dangerous, and is certainly something a majority of Turkish Cypriots do not want, and ignores the dangers to the Greek Cypriots of Cyprus of having to deal with 80 million Turkish citizens across the Green Line?

A clue is given in Politis (13.12.2016) the day after, which refers to an interview with Dr Syrigos  published in Phileleftheros (14.4.2014) in which he stated that “rather than a solution such as the Annan Plan) it would be preferable to have two states (presumably both sovereign) on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, both of whom would be in the European Union”. On condition that;

(1) The territory assigned to the Greek Cypriot state in the Annan Plan would be included in southern state to be governed by the Greek Cypriot community.

(2) That the property ownership of both communities should be recognised, presumably implying that where possible restitution or compensation be implemented. Presumably where possible, since already there is agreement that compulsory acquisition undertaken for legitimate (roads, schools, hospitals) public welfare use cannot be returned.

(3) That resettlement by Greek and Turkish Cypriot displaced be allowed.

If this is the true position of Dr Syrigos, it is worthy of further study in the event that the current talks failure to conclude a settlement. Though this also would face considerable obstacles, requiring territorial adjustment, and recognition of property ownership, it solves a number of major issues such as being a workable solution.

However, it assumes that the attraction for the Turkish Cypriots of having their own recognised sovereign state in northern Cyprus, within the EU is such as to enable them to reach agreement on the conditions. While at the same time relieving Turkey of a headache.

The real issue is whether such a format meets the national interests of Turkey. At present Turkey is like an unguided missile, and it is impossible to even guess what the Turkish government will do next. For safety’s sake, the Cyprus settlement should be guaranteed by international treaties, such as those that shaped Europe in the nineteenth century, and Cyprus should be demilitarised so as not to pose a threat to Turkey, and that annexation by any country should be prohibited.

The presentation by Dr Syrigos in conjunction with his 2014 interview should, therefore, be a call for both communities to do their homework, and proceed to examine what is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement (BATNA) for each side.

The BATNA approach requires analysis of all the alternatives (something that has never been done), but also determines the strength in the negotiation of all the parties. If the Turkish Cypriots decide that annexation by Turkey is not what they want, then an agreement should be possible. The question is whether Turkey would support such an agreement and allow a successful conclusion? If this attempt fails, then we should do some serious work on the alternatives.

The Greek Cypriot parties opposing the current negotiations have never put forward a proposal for a Cyprus settlement, but have criticised all attempts at a solution. All the parties however, accepted President Vassiliou’s 1989 proposal.

Costas Apostolides is a founder member of PAX Cypria Cyprus Institute for Peace ([email protected])

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