Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Time to change course without delay

File Photo: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (centre) with the two leaders
The government must accept the moratorium proposed by Turkey

It is abundantly clear that the government’s strategy to resolve the Cyprus problem is totally ineffective and fruitless. In fact, the strategy pursued has led to results that are diametrically opposite to those at which it was aimed.

The developments on all fronts confirm the validity of my conclusion: stagnation of the Cyprus problem, chaos within the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, intensification of the turkification process, legalisation of the settlements in the north, an ever increasing economic and political dependence of the northern part of Cyprus on Turkey and the absence of any effective/pre-emptive reaction on the part of our friends. President Anastasiades himself in his interview to Bloomberg last Tuesday said: “Turkey feels unrestrained given the US efforts to keep the country in the western alliance”. He then amplified his point by references to Syria, Libya, Cyprus’ EEZ and the fenced-off town of Varosha.

In the meantime, following the rushed rejection of the Turkish proposal for the mutual freezing of all steps that could lead to a further deterioration of the already tense climate, which was indirectly supported by the international community and the US government, Turkey has leaked her position that Cyprus is the “backyard” of her enemies and competitors – Israel, Egypt, Greece etc – where plans aimed at isolating Turkey and neutralising her role in the Eastern Mediterranean are being hatched.

Within this analysis Turkey is projected as being determined to crash “the provocative and irresponsible behaviour of the Greek Cypriot administration of southern Cyprus”, without failing to stress that the difficulties are compounded by “the complete lack of any desire on the part of the Greek Cypriots to resolve the problems that persist in Cyprus over an extended period of time”. Always according to Turkey, “this persistent lack of progress is forcing Turkey to proceed to the unilateral adoption and implementation of plans for confronting the problem, such as the opening of the walled-off Famagusta, under a Turkish Cypriot administration”.

Unfortunately, these positions of Turkey appear to be partially endorsed by the international community, as a consequence of the dystocia noted in finding a solution, ever since the accession of Cyprus into the European Union in the early part of 2004. During this fairly extended period of time, the Cyprus government is presented by Turkey as undermining the peace process, through the excessive use of “asterisks and footnotes” and by systematically projecting in the southern part of Cyprus a picture of Turkey that does not inspire any trust and consistently blows up the prospects of any form of mutual understanding and cooperation.

No intelligent Cypriot claims that in the event of a military clash there is any chance of Cyprus coming out as a winner or that there is a serious probability of Turkey losing its geopolitical, military or negotiating strength. It is an undisputed fact that in international affairs the decisions are taken primarily by reference to the interests of the big powers.

On this basis, the government of Cyprus must change course without delay and accept the moratorium (freezing of all actions) that has been proposed by Turkey, for a reasonable length of time, say until the end of June 2020. The proposed change in the course followed by the Cyprus government does not need to be justified (either within Cyprus or internationally) beyond a general reference to the acceptance of the moratorium that has been proposed, in response to the suggestions of the friends of Cyprus. Its sole purpose is to create the necessary positive climate for the prompt resolution of the Cyprus problem as well as for tackling the problem of the delineation of the exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As confirmation of the government’s goodwill and good intentions, the president should perhaps proceed with replacing his advisors, who in the past have indicated that they would be prepared to consider “other solutions” to the Cyprus problem, with those of a positive attitude.

As far as the EEZ of the Eastern Mediterranean is concerned, Cyprus’ proposal should be the immediate referral of the delineation differences to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), with a commitment to accept and apply the court’s ruling. Such a proposal should be accompanied by the recognition of the right of Turkey to play a role in the offshore wealth of the Eastern Mediterranean that would be commensurate to its world standing.

As to the Cyprus problem, Cyprus’ proposal should focus on the continuation of the negotiations from where they were left at Crans-Montana, on June 30, 2017, with the goal of seeking the speedy transformation of the Republic of Cyprus into a truly independent bicommunal, bizonal federation, with political equality and effective participation of the two communities, as provided in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the framework of the UN secretary-general with its six parameters, dated June 30, 2017.

Under the circumstances, any other approach would amount to committing suicide. The responsibility for such a development will rest exclusively with the president.


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



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