By Ozay Mehmet
September 2018 is shaping up as the defining moment when the last tango in Cyprus will be played out. The leaders’ meeting in New York with the UNSG Antonio Guterres, may even be short, a bitter repetition of the Crans-Montana failure of June 2017.
Mustafa Akinci still believes in a ‘federal’ Cyprus, but the ‘zero Turkish troops’ and ‘no Turkish guarantee’ demands of Nicos Anastasiades render his vision a romantic dream. The odds are high that the A&A duo will return home empty-handed. Two more names will be added to the long list of failed Cypriot leaders over the past half century of division.
Political settlements are made between people, based on trust and a will to cooperate. In Cyprus, the bitter reality is that the great majority of Turkish and Greek Cypriots have virtually zero mutual trust. Populist leaders are always ready to exploit people’s mistrust.
TCs, with their self-declared mini-state recognised only by Turkey, are poised to become the biggest losers of a non-settlement. Akinci is so distant from his community, he is set to lose the next election to the nationalist party opponent. Ominously, more serious trouble is on the way. Slowly but surely, the Anatolian Turks, now in a clear majority, are emerging as the dominant political force.
Within the next 5 to 10 years, Ankara will install its own leadership and style of government in the north. Like it or not, TCs are witnessing Turkification of their land as more Anatolians settle in new villages and towns everywhere, especially in Meserya/Mesaoria Plain, soon to be irrigated by Turkish water and powered by Turkish electricity from the mainland.
TC politics, no less dysfunctional than the GC politics in the south, empower Ankara. Likely future scenarios include a ‘Vilayet’ (Turkish province) ruled by an Ankara-appointed Governor, in everything but name initially. The Turkish currency instability may hasten the transformation.
Options facing TCs are bleak indeed. But, one thing is certain: The great majority will reject becoming second-class in a GC-dominated state. Most likely, those TCs with diplomas and university degrees will migrate abroad. Perhaps, a few thousand may end up in the south and face extinction, as happened in Crete and Rhodes. But the majority will march with Turkification.
The GC losses will also be huge. With Unficyp gone, the existing border will be guarded by Turkish troops. It won’t matter if the border is closed. TCs will travel via Turkey carrying Turkish passport. Their standard of living may decline, but they will be safe.
The GCs can forget about their abandoned property in the north. Turkey will not give up Cyprus.
The currency crisis now unfolding will only reduce the cost of Turkification in the north. For every departing TC, two new settlers will come.
In the age of hydrocarbons and the EEZ, Turkey has vital national interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara is investing heavily in infrastructure in Karpas, Guzelyurt/Morphou and elsewhere as deliberate stake-building investments in the future.
Regionally, Erdogan is also cosying up to Putin, who may yet achieve what the Tsars never did, viz. control of the Eastern Mediterranean. Is there no hope at all? Not unless there is a last-minute miracle.
For a miracle to happen, the A&A leadership must embrace the loosest confederal formula, two states in the EU. The GCs and TCs can then enjoy their own mini-states, as functional as now, each behind an agreed new border. Property claims and legal division of powers can be settled cooperatively on EU norms.
Anything less would be rejected by people. Peoples’ demands are what prevail in the end. In Cyprus, the great majority of TCs and GCs want peace and security. A zero-sum outcome is no win.
Ozay Mehmet, Ph.D (Toronto), Senior Fellow, Centre in Modern Turkish Studies, Distinguished Research Professor, International Affairs (Emeritus), Carleton University, Ontario, Canada