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Guest Columnist

The last mile: the significance of political equality

Anastasiades Government Anastasiades Nicos 09

By Demetrios H. Hadjihambis and Pavlos Anastasiades

AT THEIR meeting on November 3, the two leaders expressed their determination to respond positively to the Secretary-General’s commitment, affirmed in his letters to them, to explore the possibility of convening an informal five-plus-UN meeting. Thus announcing his initiative, the Secretary-General is acting under the mandate of the Security Council and is bound by its Resolutions to seek a solution on the agreed basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality as set out therein, including Resolution 716 of 1991 and in particular its paragraph 4, as noted in the Statement on the Berlin trilateral meeting of 25-11-2019.

Paragraph 4 provides that the solution will be based on one state of Cyprus comprising two politically equal communities as defined by the Secretary-General in his Report of 8-3-1990.

Therein it is specifically stated that, although political equality does not amount to equal numerical participation in all federal government, it must be reflected, inter alia, in the effective participation of the two communities in all its organs and decisions as well as in safeguards that the federal government will not be empowered to adopt any measures against the interests of one community. The Security Council reiterated its position on political equality, including specific reference to paragraph 4, in its last three Resolutions 2483 (25-7-2019), 2506 (30-1-2020) and 2537 (28-7-2020), thus affirming its fundamental importance in order to avoid any deviation from it. The Berlin Statement also affirms the parties’ commitment to the Joint Declaration of 11-2-2014, the earlier convergences and the Secretary-General’s six-point framework of 30-6-2017 at Crans Montana. Thus, like the Secretary-General, the parties are bound as above.

The issue of political equality is indeed of fundamental significance, and it is with reference to it that statements from the Turkish side often raise the question of other forms of solution with particular emphasis on two equal states. The notion of two equal states can of course be reconciled within the bi-communal bi-zonal federation with political equality in the context of one federated state with a single sovereignty and international personality, in which case they do not necessarily negate the federal structure . It is thus important that there should be no doubt about the Greek Cypriots side’s commitment to the agreed basis, including political equality. This will constitute an effective answer to the Turkish side’s cause for other forms of solution.

As to political equality, the Secretary-General’s six-point framework provides for rotating presidency (2:1) and, in terms of effective participation, for decisions by simple majority including one positive vote, with deadlock resolving mechanism. In a recent interview the President of the Republic stated that at the impending conference he has no intention of renegotiating the basis of the solution and that at Crans Montana he had not deviated from it but only as to certain prerequisites for ensuring the functionality, viability and acceptability of the solution. These being, apart from those pertaining troops and guarantees, matters which concerned political equality, particularly as to the executive, considering that it would be unfair if the smaller community were to control by its one positive vote all the decisions of the federal government. Hence, he proposed that the Turkish Cypriots’ one positive vote be limited to decisions adversely affecting their interests.

Nevertheless, in the Secretary-General’s Report of 8-3-1990 the reference to safeguards against decisions affecting a community’s interests is distinct and additional to that concerning effective participation. Any such differentiation on political equality affects a basic parameter of the solution and invites differentiations from the other side elsewhere. Political equality as effective participation is fundamental to the concept of the bi-communal bi-zonal federation for, though not numerical, it entails common decision-making. The emphasis should rather be on such deadlock resolution mechanisms that will maintain the harmonious functioning of the federal government. The following may be conducive to countering the possibility of deadlocks –

  1. The limited extent of the functions of the federal government.
  2. The operation of federal Cyprus, as a member of the EU, within the parameters of the EU.
  3. The provision for cross-voting in electing the presidency and the operation of the federal government in the context of the party system, engendering such collaboration and communities of interests that will surpass the communal differences.
  4. The reduced percentage corresponding to one positive vote effected through the increased number of the members of the federal executive.

The acceptance of political equality, which is the basic demand of the Turkish Cypriots will constitute the substantive exchange for their acceptance of the Greek Cypriots’ basic requirements as regards territorial adjustments, security, troops and guarantees. The Secretary-General’s framework recognises the need for territorial adjustments beyond those proposed in the Turkish Cypriots’ map, with an agreement appearing to be within reach. Even more important is the acknowledgment that the existing system of guarantees is unsustainable and must be replaced by a new security system and implementation monitoring mechanism, as is the reference to a prospective agreement at the highest level regarding the withdrawal of troops.

It is important to remember that the Secretary-General presented his framework in view, as he explained, of the parties’ reluctance to make compromises at one table concerning internal matters unless demonstrated progress had been made at the other table concerning security and guarantees, and vice versa, so that the parties would have before them a framework for simultaneously resolving the six major outstanding issues at both tables as elements of a final package that would lead to a comprehensive settlement. It is high time to at last demonstrate that crucial political will so the negotiations may cover that last mile that was not covered at Crans Montana.


Demetrios H. Hadjihambis is President of the Supreme Court (retired)

Pavlos Anastasiades is a former Ambassador

The Greek version of this article has been published in Kathimerini

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