BACK in the late seventies, eighties and early nineties, going into a new year everyone would express the hope or wish – for some it was a burning desire – that it would be the year the Cyprus problem would be finally solved.
Into the 21st century, politicians and other public figures persisted with the expression of this wish even though people increasingly viewed it as a parody. And when we hear the same sentiment being uttered by President Anastasiades in his New Year message, it will be deeply ironic.
For if there was one thing that became abundantly clear in 2018 it was Anastasiades’ total disinterest in a settlement or, to be more precise, in a settlement that envisaged re-unification and power-sharing with the Turkish Cypriots. He had not ruled out partition in meetings with the Turkish foreign minister and raised it as a possibility in meetings with Mustafa Akinci as well as with some Greek Cypriot politicians. During the election campaign, he avoided the matter as much as he could and before the second ballot secured the backing of rejectionist parties by privately indicating a preference for a two-state solution. That he is now in an informal alliance with the arch-rejectionists of Diko suggests a federal settlement is no longer on his agenda.
The signs of Anastasiades’ transformation into an anti-federation president were evident even before he had grudgingly agreed to attend the conference in Crans-Montana, after his transparent efforts at avoiding it had failed. The conference collapsed because Turkey would not put in writing her consent to the abolition of guarantees and the unilateral right of intervention, conveyed orally to the UN secretary-general, as Anastasiades was demanding. The oral consent was not good enough for him and so inspired the slogan that he wanted normal state that was not subject to the guarantees of a third country – a legitimate demand, which would have been satisfied in a deal.
In the last few months, the objections to a settlement have been based on another concern. Even if the guarantees were gone, he now says, the normal state would be dysfunctional because of political equality and power-sharing provisions envisaged by a bizonal, bicommunal federation. Despite Anastasiades agreeing to increase the authorities of the federal government during the negotiations, he now argues these combined with the one positive vote by a Turkish Cypriot necessary for any cabinet decision, which he also agreed to in the talks, would create a dysfunctional normal state. Allowing the Turkish Cypriots a positive vote raises the danger of Cyprus of becoming a Turkish protectorate and not being able to implement its energy policy Anastasiades now says.
Constantly expressing doubts over the type of settlement the two sides have been working on for decades and highlighting its weaknesses is all part of an orchestrated effort by the president and his lieutenants to destroy any prospect of re-unification. Knowing Turkey could move on security and guarantees, he has started chipping away at the proposed federation, which he insists would not be workable, before embarking on the demolition of the concepts of political equality and power-sharing – considered the basis of any settlement. Speaking at an army camp on Thursday, he said, “political equality is one thing and the political demand for one community, through mechanisms, deviating from what is internationally the practice in federal systems, to want to impose itself through special provisions on the other.”
What part of Anastasiades’ discourse are we meant to take seriously? He negotiated the ‘one positive vote’ and the tight federation with extensive powers, having accepted the principle of political equality and never expressing a single doubt about it. The process collapsed in Crans-Montana because of Turkey’s alleged intransigence on the issue of guarantees and not because of disagreements on political equality or the powers of the federal state.
Perhaps this is the strategy by which Anastasiades wants to lead us to the two-state solution. By consistently rubbishing everything that has been agreed on because it would lead to a dysfunctional state in which the Turkish Cypriots impose Turkey’s diktats on the Greek Cypriots and thus turn the Republic into a Turkish protectorate, reunification has become out of the question.
This has left us with one option – the two-state solution. All that remains is to reach an agreement with Turkey on the hydrocarbons. If he could negotiate some compromise on this with Turkey, he would be content to sign over the occupied part of Cyprus to Turkey as part of the package and continue to govern the Republic on his own: he has another four years in office to look forward to.
Perhaps in his message for 2019 he can at last speak honestly to people and come clean about his objectives. Yet this seems too much to expect from a president who has been pursuing his secret agenda for the last couple of years. We hope this will finally be exposed in 2019.