Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Akinci was right to sound the alarm

Former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci
When the Turkish foreign minister described Mustafa Akinci as unreliable, he used totally the wrong word

By Alper Ali Riza

Transferred malice is a principle of law whereby you are guilty of an offence if in intending to hurt one person you hurt another. The rationale behind this is that your intention to hurt is transferred to the actual victim.

Although not exactly analogous, I thought of this principle when I read the extraordinary attack by Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, on Mustafa Akinci for an interview he gave to the Guardian newspaper.

“I have never worked with a more unreliable politician than Mustafa Akinci,” he said.

Really? If memory serves, Cavusoglu worked closely with Nicos Anastasiades at Crans-Montana in 2017 when Anastasiades led everyone, including Cavusoglu, up the garden path knowing full well he had no intention of agreeing to any solution before or after the presidential elections of 2017.

Cavusoglu said that he will give examples of Akinci’s unreliability, but at one level his outburst was a case of transferred malice with a Turkish twist: he transferred his anger at Anastasiades for the way he played him at Crans-Montana on to Mustafa Akinci.

Mustafa may have his faults, but unreliability is not one of them. Many people in Cyprus trust what he says a lot more than any other politician. He may be a bit naïve in relying on Anastasiades to deliver, but his optimism is infectious and may rub off on his sparring partner.

The Guardian is a left leaning progressive newspaper in Britain that unlike the Times and the Daily Mail is usually on the right side of history. Both right wing organs appeased Hitler and the Nazis before 1939.

By contrast the Guardian is a natural ally of progressive politicians like Akinci who strive to uphold liberal democracy and the rule of law.

So, it was natural for Akinci to reach out to the Guardian to put the Turkish Cypriot case about the dangers facing Cyprus, as ugly rumours persist that Cavusoglu and Anastasiades may be in cahoots to carve up Cyprus.

What irked the Turkish foreign minister was the that Akinci’s interview was mildly critical of Turkey.

Nothing Akinci said in his interview, however, suggests he is remotely unreliable as a political leader.

He said that the solution he had in mind to avoid permanent partition was an “equitable” federal accommodation and that his vision is of a unified Cyprus within the EU. So far as I know all the candidates support membership of the EU.

Akinci warned that differences are growing more pronounced and a viable federal of solution to the Cyprus problem is receding fast, and if there is no solution soon the Turkish Cypriots will end up being swallowed up by Turkey, which is not unlikely.

He said he was proud of the Turkish Cypriot community’s secular identity, which he thought was worth preserving. As most Turkish Cypriots adhere to the secular and European orientation set by Turkey’s founding father, Kemal Ataturk, it was not disloyal to Turkey and her constitution for Akinci to reassert the fact that Turkish Cypriot identity remains secular despite the changes wrought in Turkey.

In light of those changes he suggested “independent, brotherly relations” with Turkey, on one hand and sharing power equitably as equals with the Greek Cypriots on the other.

I think Cavusoglu’s condemnation of Akinci’s interview is a touch hysterical and unbecoming his status as foreign minister of Turkey.

Caught between Turkey’s muscular foreign policy and the lack of principled leadership from Anastasiades, Akinci was right to sound the alarm.

In an open society, Turkey’s foreign policy over Cyprus is a proper subject for debate and there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism of Turkey. Unlike Caesar’s wife, she is not beyond reproach.

And Akinci was right to point out that reaching an equitable federal arrangement in Cyprus would be in Turkey’s national interest, including her claims to hydrocarbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean

At present Turkish foreign policy is quite literally all over the place, and people are worried as she seems to be squaring up for confrontation in every direction.

Yet in Cyprus a peaceful way forward is as obvious as it is simple and Akinci is right to fight an election in support of equitable federal solution.

Equitable does not mean numerically equal in every respect – that sort of demand renders Greek Cypriots apoplectic and should be avoided by people who want a federal solution.

It means fair and just, and Akinci was optimistic that this is feasible: “the train was derailed in Crans-Montana. I think we have re-launched it again on a realistic and mutually acceptable path,” he said.

If there were an equitable federal solution the Turkish Cypriots would share power and wealth, including hydrocarbon wealth, fairly and justly rather than unfairly and unjustly.

A solution would also enhance the legality and legitimacy of Turkey’s claim in respect of her continental shelf.

Under international law delimitation of rights to the continental shelf is done by cooperation between states in accordance with equitable principles, as happened between Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands in the North Sea Continental Shelf cases.

Equitable principles involve taking into account and placing rational weight on a number of factors including the principle of a reasonable degree of proportionality between length of coastline and extent of continental shelf.

Turkey has repeatedly made the point that she has the longest coastline and cannot be excluded from her fair share, which is absolutely right in international law.

Her continental shelf, however, has to be delineated by agreement and cooperation with other states and the problem has been that she does not recognise the Greek Cypriot run Republic of Cyprus as a state.

Therefore, a solution to the Cyprus problem involving the equitable participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the government of Cyprus would automatically resolve this difficulty.

Turkey would recognise Cyprus and both states would then seek agreement on delimitation, and if necessary, refer any dispute regarding delimitation of their continental shelf to the international court of justice by consent.

Instead of following such an obviously sensible course of action, politicians in Cyprus prefer to play games with people’s lives.

They do not know what they are doing, and God help puny Cyprus when the proverbial hits the fan.


Alper Ali Riza is a queen’s counsel in the UK and a part-time judge

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