The Greek Cypriot leadership must come to its senses. The time for acrobatics is over

In my article on Sunday, December 20, I said: “I dare to predict that in February we will have dramatic developments in relation to the Cyprus problem”. The day of reckoning has come. There is no longer room for amateurish improvisations, or for indecisiveness or for mistakes. The omens are not good.

At the time when we should have been getting ready for the final battle and while a pandemic is plaguing our country with undeterminable economic and social consequences, one hears unarticulated cries about whether Odysseas Michaelides, the auditor-general, should be given access to the files of the “golden passports” now or in a few weeks’ time, about whether the protection afforded to defaulting borrowers should be strengthened with the visible risk of precipitating a new ‘haircut’ of bank depositors and about whether the cover-up of those breaching the trust bestowed on them by electing them or appointing them in public positions should continue.

Turkey has clearly demonstrated that it has a well thought out, long-term plan and the competence to implement it in a masterly fashion, by taking full advantage of the mistakes committed by the Greek Cypriot leadership. Unfortunately, the childish naivety of the Greek Cypriot politicians does not allow them to acknowledge that it is perfectly natural for Turkey to seek to serve its own interests in whatever manner she considers appropriate. They also find it very difficult to comprehend that the interests and the choices of the Turkish Cypriots are not the same as Turkey’s. However, they do not understand that they cannot be claiming the full ownership of the government of the Republic of Cyprus, when they consistently show no interest in the fate of 20 per cent of the population, and they do nothing to secure the well-being of these people and to effectively protect their interests.

It is the Greek Cypriot leadership that in the 1970s opted for a ‘long-term struggle’. In 2004 it breached the understanding reached with the European Commission on the basis of which Cyprus acceded to the European Union. In 2013 it shouted a thunderous ‘no’ to the Germans, who strongly resisted the ‘haircut’ of the micro bank depositors and of pension funds while the Greek Cypriot leadership was struggling to protect the macro bank depositors and keep them safe from the consequences of the economic crisis caused by the greed of the Greek Cypriot ruling class.

Today, having reached the end of the road, the Greek Cypriot leadership gives the impression that it is abandoning the positions it has held for so long and which formed the cornerstone of the solution to the Cyprus problem. This allows the other side to claim that, if the Greek Cypriots have no intention of honouring what has already been agreed, then “we also have the right to go our own way”.

What Turkey is aiming at is crystal clear; it is a loose ‘confederational’ arrangement, which would allow northern Cyprus to function within the framework of the European Union while having the freedom to do as she pleases, without being dependent on the choices of the Greek Cypriot side. By necessity, this arrangement would have to be dubbed a ‘federation’, irrespective of the fact that in substance it would be more like a confederation. This is how the concept of a ‘loose federation’, where “each side would do as it pleases”, emerged.

This hapless columnist has consistently argued that such an arrangement would be the worst possible deal because it will lead with mathematical precision to the perpetuation of northern Cyprus’ dependence on Turkey, to the economic, political and social isolation of the two communities from each other and, by extension, to the full Turkification of one of the two purportedly ‘federated’ states. In other words, the arrangement will be an extension of the de facto status quo into the future, but with the formal recognition of the legal status of the north and the consequent international freedom of movement of persons and goods from/to the northern Cypriot state. Under these circumstances, the conflicts between the northern and the southern parts of Cyprus will be inevitable. Whoever has the supremacy of power will have the upper hand.

Similar and probably worse consequences will arise if the Cyprus problem is declared ‘irresolvable’. With the departure of the UN peacekeeping force and the distancing of the United Nations from the Cyprus problem, the Greek Cypriot community will have to confront Turkey on land, at sea and in the air.

In the face of these grave risks, the Greek Cypriot leadership must come to its senses and immediately abandon the acrobatic exercises it has been indulging in because they are certain to lead to a fatal accident.

It follows that at the upcoming informal meeting, the position of the Greek Cypriot leadership should come across in a crystal-clear manner that leaves no room for doubt:

  1. Bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality and effective participation, within the Guterres Framework

  1. Abandonment of any discussion of a ‘loose’ federation or a disguised form of a confederation that would give the other side the opportunity to backtrack and seek a disguised form of partition

  1. Abandonment of any discussion on ‘temporary’ confidence-building measures (CBMs), which will defocus the effort of attaining a comprehensive solution to the problem and will provide an escape route to the other side. This is not what the UN Secretary-General had in mind when he called for such measures to be taken

  1. Aim at an immediate solution

The Greek Cypriot side should not seek a solution (like that attained under the Zurich-London agreements), which would lead to a renegotiation process before the ink of the previous agreement dries. The Greek Cypriot side wants a comprehensive, total solution of all the problems persisting with Turkey, including those associated with the offshore hydrocarbon deposits. The Greek Cypriot side is seeking the immediate reunification of Cyprus, under a federated umbrella. It is not interested in merely blaming the other side for the failure to resolve the problem. It is seeking a solution here and now.

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