Former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was not exactly saying anything we did not know when he warned, in an interview he gave to Yeni Duzen newspaper, that the process of annexation of the occupied area by Turkey was in motion. The process has been evident for years as has been the dependency of the regime on Turkey, which Akinci said was increasing.
The north has always been economically and politically dependent on Turkey because its population was always too small to economically sustain a ‘state’, a situation made more difficult by its illegal status, which prevented its development and trade relations with other countries. It is often the case that money needs to be transferred from the Turkish treasury for public sector wages to be paid in the north. This type of dependency has existed ever since the regime was established in 1983.
As for the process of annexation that had been Plan B, it seems to have gathered momentum after the Crans-Montana conference in 2017, at which President Anastasiades shunned the idea of a federal settlement and raised the possibility of a two-state solution with Turkey’s foreign minister. Since then, Turkey has made the two-state solution its objective, refusing to return to the bizonal bicommunal federation, on the grounds that it was not a viable option. It had more than 40 years of failed negotiations to support its case.
Given this background, it was rather rich of Anastasiades claiming that Akinci’s interview had vindicated him as it negated the “narratives that wanted to attribute the failure of Crans-Montana, to our side.” His argument was that as Turkey always wanted to annex the north, it calculatingly pursued the collapse of the talks in Switzerland. It is a disingenuous argument that is primarily aimed at absolving himself of responsibility for the situation we are in today, when even the slim hope of the return Varosha has been dashed.
This is what Anastasiades will be judged on. He had spectacularly failed to stop the occupied part of Cyprus being put on the annexation path, because when the opportunity to do so was offered in Crans-Montana – having Akinci, whose commitment to a federal settlement was indisputable, opposite him – he walked out, conveniently, blaming Turkey’s intransigence. If there were difficulties, a leader committed to a settlement would have stayed on and tried to resolve them instead of using them as an excuse to quit. He would also have known that by walking out, the opportunity for reunification could be lost forever.
Anastasiades will never take responsibility for his miscalculation and inept handling of the process, because that will always belong to Turkey’s intransigence, but he cannot deny that, ultimately, his aversion to a federal deal removed another obstacle for a third of Cyprus’ territory eventually becoming a province of Turkey. It is a very peculiar type of vindication.