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Cypriot sides must focus on the common good

“The fears concerning Turkey are real and justified, but it is preferable for these fears to exist within the framework of an internationally guaranteed solution, rather than within the framework of a very volatile, steadily deteriorating situation”

 Sunday Mail columnist Christos Panayiotides interviews former foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides

 

Turkey’s two main arguments for justifying its behaviour over the hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean are that (a) Cyprus has effectively determined unilaterally the southern part of the Turkish exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and (b) the Greek Cypriots have – save certain vague promises – excluded the Turkish Cypriots from any involvement. Some international players consider that Turkey’s allegations are not entirely unfounded. What do you think are the reasons that render the Greek Cypriots reluctant to involve the Turkish Cypriots in managing this underwater wealth and to declare explicitly that we will unconditionally accept the verdict of the International Court of Justice (in a joint appeal) on the delineation of the EEZs of Cyprus and Turkey?

The situation within the Turkish Cypriot community must be distinguished between a pre-solution and a post-solution era. In the pre-solution era, the Turkish Cypriot community is totally dependent on Turkey, economically, politically and in terms of security and of “being represented” outside Cyprus. Turkey declares that to stop its illegal drilling in the Cypriot EEZ, the Republic must also suspend its own drilling. This is what the proposal of a “joint management committee” is aiming at. In such a committee, they would demand that all decisions be taken unanimously, or on the basis of veto rights or, as a minimum, with at least one positive Turkish Cypriot vote in accordance with their interpretation of political equality.

A drilling moratorium would be at the expense of the interests of Cyprus as a whole. Judging by the example of the Aphrodite plot, the time interval between the discovery of a deposit and its commercial exploitation is very substantial. At this stage, we should at least be able to quantify our claims. It is evident that Turkey’s proposal does not serve the interests of the Turkish Cypriots but rather the strategic interests of Turkey.

Although the hydrocarbon revenues are not expected to materialise for years to come, we have stated unequivocally that what is due to the Turkish Cypriot community would be deposited in a specifically designated account, which will be exclusively used by the Turkish Cypriots once a solution is reached.

In terms of international arbitration is concerned, we are ready to unconditionally commit ourselves to fully respecting the judgement of any international court.

Armies do not offer security

There is a widespread impression that the way Greek Cypriots are briefed on the Cyprus problem is deficient, resulting in widespread confusion and misinformation. Turkey is viewed with fear and the suspicion that it is totally unreliable and would not honour its obligations. The fear focuses on the risk that by trusting Turkey we could end up losing our last line of defence against Turkish aggressiveness, namely we will lose the international recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, which to date remains under the full control of the Greek Cypriots. How can the media be induced to provide the public with a more objective and balanced view of the Cyprus problem?

Given the freedom enjoyed by the press in Cyprus, we cannot impose any line on the media nor would it be appropriate to attempt to do so. However, the problem does not lie entirely there. I agree that there is extensive confusion and misinformation, but the main problem is society’s lack of interest as people have become tired over the lack of progress and do not believe that progress can be made. A contributing factor to this negative attitude is the long intervals between one round of negotiations and the next.

The fear concerning the unreliability and aggressiveness of Turkey is real. We are concerned that Turkey will inescapably be present at the implementation of a solution – until its full withdrawal from Cyprus – but we also fear that Turkey will always be Cyprus’ next-door neighbour.

However, we need to be careful here and must not allow this fear to overshadow the fact that Turkey has the means and the power to change the present status quo for the worse. Just look at what they are doing in the EEZ, the threats concerning Varosha and even the possibility of provoking a hot incident that could ruin our tourist industry and our economy. The fears concerning Turkey are real and justified, but it is preferable for these fears to exist within the framework of an internationally guaranteed solution, rather than within the framework of a very volatile, steadily deteriorating situation.

As for the post-solution international recognition of Cyprus, our seat at the United Nations will not be affected, our status as a member-state of the European Union will not change and there will be no need to re-admit Cyprus to the union, while the Treaty of Establishment of Cyprus will be reconfirmed. The Republic of Cyprus will not disappear. The only fear is that in a federal Cyprus we may encounter difficulties to appeal before international organisations if something goes wrong. We were able to appeal in the past. What has been the outcome of our appeals? What were we able to achieve by appealing? As soon as a solution is reached, we will need to be very careful not to allow things to go wrong, as happened in the past.

Turkey says it will stop drilling in the EEZ when the Republic does

The legalistic approach in resolving the Cyprus problem is based on the belief that a ‘good solution’ will be set on automatic pilot and will work by itself. Clearly, this is a gross misconception, given that the difficult part of the solution is its implementation. The smooth functioning of an agreed solution will largely depend on terminating the Turkish Cypriots’ political and economic dependence on Turkey. Many Turkish Cypriots claim that the attitude of the Republic of Cyprus has thrown them into the arms of Turkey. How can this vicious cycle be reversed?

I think it would be wrong to compare dissimilar situations. That our side has committed many mistakes, which have pushed the Turkish Cypriots into the arms of Turkey is an unquestionable fact. The same is true of the mistakes committed by the Turkish Cypriots, which have led to our negative attitude.

However, if we manage to agree on a solution, then we will be talking about a different situation. Yes, the objective of each community will be to win the trust of the other community. This goal cannot be attained by default. It has to be won. I believe that the ingredients are already there. The Turkish Cypriot community has resisted the attempts made to abandon its secular character. It may be appropriate to remind you of Akinci’s re-election, five years ago, by 60 per cent of the electorate, even though he was not Ankara’s preferred candidate. My assessment is that that was a protest vote against the stranglehold of Turkey. In the event of finding a solution, we must work diligently, generously and magnanimously to secure the termination of this dependence. The allegiance of both communities should be towards Cyprus and not towards third countries. Both communities should feel that Cyprus is their home, which they should manage jointly for the common good.

 

Some say that the government of the Republic, which has an obligation to protect and serve the interests of all its citizens, has abandoned a segment of the population to the mercy of Turkey and has confined itself to the declaration of good ‘post-solution’ intentions. Should the Cypriot government have been much more proactive?

With all due respect, I consider such thinking a bit far-fetched and certainly innovative. It can be easily stated in theory but is very difficult to be applied in practice, especially when Turkey controls by force the occupied part of Cyprus. Unfortunately, the elected leaders of the Turkish Cypriots have led their community into isolation by their “declaration of independence”, outside the international legal order. This “state” refuses to recognise the lawful government of the Republic of Cyprus. In contrast, all the governments of the Republic have adopted and consistently followed the position that they represent the whole of Cyprus and its entire population, subject only to the practical constraints that are imposed by circumstances.

The admission of the entire Republic of Cyprus as a member state of the European Union – despite Turkey’s strong resistance – enables the Turkish Cypriots to look forward to the solution of the Cyprus problem as the gate that will immediately empower them to enjoy the full benefits of EU membership. The European Union herself has suspended the application of the European Acquis in the areas that they are not under the Republic’s control – an arrangement that will be automatically annulled as soon as an agreement on the reunification of Cyprus is reached.

My position is that each side must be able to look forward to the benefits derived from reunification (win-win situation). This approach is as valid here as it is in respect of the natural gas deposits.

 

The issue of personal security and attaining stability and peace appear to be the most important matters of concern to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. How can we attain such conditions that will secure the welfare of all Cypriots?

It is imperative to ensure that the ‘solution’ will enable both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to feel secure. This is a key issue. In our times, armies do not offer security because they invariably act outside a framework of barriers and they often act with disproportionate force. They create problems; they do not solve them. The problems of physical security in the case of riots, violent demonstrations, bullying and possibly murder must be tackled by police forces. Beyond the state police, federal Cyprus would have a federal police force specially trained to deal with such problems and support the work of the state police forces. During the first years of implementing the solution, it has been proposed that a multinational police force should be there to assist and support the work of the Cyprus police forces.

It goes without saying that the existing treaty of guarantees and the unilateral right of intervention on the part of the guarantors must be abolished and the occupation army needs to be withdrawn within a short and reasonable period of time.

But there is also the issue of the security of the implementation of the solution. The history of the Republic of Cyprus during the initial years of its existence is full of feelings of insecurity. The Turkish Cypriots lived the experience of being ostracised from the government bodies that were stipulated in the Zurich Constitution.

I will not examine here the extent of each side’s responsibility. The Greek Cypriots lived the experience of the misuse of the veto right given to the Turkish Cypriots that caused a state paralysis, as a consequence of refusing to approve the state budget, leading to a situation that had a direct negative impact on the daily lives of citizens (pensions, salaries, hospitals, schools).

In a federal Cyprus daily life issues will be dealt with by the constituent states. The available space in the context of this interview does not allow me to expand on the issue of securing the implementation of the solution. The latest negotiations at Crans-Montana covered substantial ground in relation to this issue and the UN secretary-general tabled a document which in effect was an “Implementation Agreement”. It has been agreed that for every provision favouring one of the two communities there should be a corresponding favourable provision for the other community in order to ensure that such provisions act as an incentive for coordination and cooperation.

 

Ioannis Kasoulides was born in Nicosia in 1948. He studied medicine at the University of Lyon and specialised in geriatrics in London. His involvement in politics goes back to his youth. He served as president of the Disy youth organisation, was an MP for two years and a government spokesman for four years. He then served as foreign minister under Glafcos Clerides for six years, a Euro MP for nine years and, again as foreign minister under Nicos Anastasiades for a further five years.

 

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

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