Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist

A window of opportunity has just opened

President Nicos Anastasiades with UN chief Antonio Guterres

THERE is little doubt that the political oscillations of the Greek Cypriot side over the past couple of years have caused immense damage and have arrested the process of resolving the Cyprus problem, with the risk of making the fait accompli irreversible.

Fortunately, it appears that we have, at last, paid attention to the messages that the friends of Cyprus have been consistently transmitting and we have revised our approach by clearly re-positioning ourselves in support of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, within the Guterres Framework and by reference to what has already been agreed at Crans-Montana.

In my opinion, the sticking points, which need to be addressed for opening the road to a successful conclusion of the negotiations and for agreeing on a system that would have a good chance of working smoothly, and should be focused on are the following:

The first is the effective participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the government of federal Cyprus. This is a reasonable demand, which would protect their interests but would also afford them the desired practical recognition of their political equality.

This reasonable demand is coming up against resistance from Greek Cypriot circles because of the prevailing intense fear that the rights, which will be granted to the Turkish Cypriots such as the rotating presidency and one positive vote, will be used to blackmail the majority of Cypriots and oblige them to accept arrangements that would be unfair and unreasonable, or will lead to dead-end situations.  Whether these fears are justified or not is a function of the personal experiences of individual Cypriots.  What is certain is that these fears exist and it is essential to find practical ways and means to pacify them.

One way of confronting these concerns is the setting up of conflict resolution mechanisms. The EU is ideally qualified to play this role and this is a possibility that should be explored and utilised to the maximum.

The EU’s culture of seeking and securing compromises will no doubt help in defusing conflict situations.  Another possibly more effective way of addressing the problem is the selection of the elected members of the federal government from people standing on a common political platform.

The existence of a common political orientation, common political goals and common political plans will promote the blending of homogeneous political forces, will secure the required cohesion and consistency throughout the term of an elected government and will help to defocus the minds of politicians from any form of a dividing line between the two communities.

An equally important parameter will be the fact that such common political platforms will greatly facilitate the political weaning from the “motherlands” that would, otherwise, implant potential conflicts between Greece and Turkey into the Cypriot domestic front with catastrophic results.

The second issue is Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which, under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, is an almost synonymous concept to that of the Continental Shelf of Cyprus.

Turkey is obviously annoyed by the efforts of Cyprus to marginalise the role of its neighbouring country, in relation to the exploitation of the undersea wealth in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

The Turkish arguments are two: (a) Cyprus has arbitrarily determined its own EEZ (and, by extension, it has determined unilaterally and arbitrarily the corresponding Turkish EEZ) and (b) the ‘Greek Cypriot government’ has excluded the Turkish Cypriots from any form of participation in the management and the exploitation of the undersea wealth of Cyprus. Turkey is fighting these positions and there is no way it will accept them silently.

Both these problems can and must be addressed by adopting clear and fair proposals, which would confirm, in an unambiguous manner, the good faith and the good intentions of the Republic of Cyprus.

As far as the determination of the dividing line between the Cypriot and the Turkish EEZ, Article 74 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is perfectly clear: “The delimitation of the exclusive economic zone between states with opposite or adjacent coasts shall be effected by agreement on the basis of international law, … in order to achieve an equitable solution.  If no agreement can be reached within a reasonable period of time, the states concerned shall resort to the procedures provided for in Part XV («Dispute Resolution»).  Pending agreement, as provided above, the states concerned, in a spirit of understanding and cooperation, shall make every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature and, during the transitional period, not to jeopardise or hamper the reaching of the final agreement.  Such arrangements shall be without prejudice to the final delimitation.”  The provisions of Part XV of the convention provide for the referring of such disputes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Given that there is no doubt that the efforts made to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement on the issue of the EEZ have failed, Cyprus’ position on the subject should be that the matter should be immediately referred to the ICJ, accompanied by a commitment on the part of both countries to accept and abide by the court’s judgment.  If Turkey refuses to accept such a formal proposal (which is explicitly provided for under international law), it will be obvious that she is not seeking a peaceful resolution of its differences with Cyprus and, as a result, she will be solely responsible for the consequences of her behaviour.

As far as the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in the management of the undersea wealth of Cyprus is concerned, the solution is simple and it comprises the establishment of an independent (not-for-profit) vehicle for managing it. The organisation should be managed by a 10-member council made up of persons of high-standing, unquestionable integrity and competence, three of whom should be nominated by the leader of the Turkish community and two by the European Commission.  Such an arrangement would have the added advantage that it would afford effective shielding to all those involved in the process against the very many temptations that often manifest themselves in these activities.

It goes without saying that the security of all the citizens of federal Cyprus and the non-interference of the “motherlands” in the political affairs of Cyprus are essential preconditions for the smooth functioning of an agreed solution.  However, I do believe that the resolution of the two sticky problems referred to above will lead to the road for a future happy and prosperous Cyprus being widely opened.

 

Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia


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