By Achilleas Demetriades
There is a protracted impasse when it comes to the Cyprus problem. We are faced with the worst situation since the invasion, one step before partition.
Many of our compatriots are tired of the Cyprus problem. They feel they have other priorities which demand their concern. Rising prices, increasing unemployment, the quality of our education and healthcare; there are scores of issues that affect our daily life. Nonetheless, the solution of the Cyprus problem defines the framework and the stability within which long-term and effective policies can be built.
To cite but two examples: the effective utilisation of hydrocarbons and promoting investments for a whole and green Cyprus.
The solution of the Cyprus problem is fundamental for our children’s future as well as ours. It goes without saying that we do not want just any solution for the sake of a solution. But a solution which respects human rights, and one that is governed by the principles of the European Union and is in line with UN resolutions.
The reality is that five years after the collapse of the talks in Crans-Montana, I am of the opinion that we are at risk of coming face to face with partition. Those responsible for the dire predicament the Cyprus problem is in today are, first and foremost, Turkey, which has turned to a two-state solution by backing Ersin Tatar’s election as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and secondly Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades and his two closest associates in the handling of the Cyprus problem, namely Nikos Christodoulides and Andreas Mavroyiannis, who have allowed the UN framework of June 30, 2017 to be sidelined.
Nikos Christodoulides has stated publicly that “in Crans-Montana we were five minutes away from the solution” and Andreas Mavroyiannis said, “we had reached the eleventh hour prior to the solution.” Today we are minutes away from partition. Who is responsible for this? The foreign minister and the negotiator were not simple employees of or mere assistants to the president. They were among those who helped shape a course of action which has led us to the present situation. Were they not aware that Anastasiades, instead of discussing the UN Framework, was talking behind closed doors (including with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu) about a two-state solution and then had a “brain-storming” in Nicosia? If either of the two disagreed, they should have said so at least in public. Claiming five years later that you supposedly disagreed means absolutely nothing. Intentions do not count nor do belated excuses, for that matter. The results count and Cyprus, which is heading towards partition, is paying the price. Varosha has opened for settlement and the Cyprus problem is not on the agenda of any international fora.
The situation is extremely difficult. The danger of consolidating the faits accomplis of the Turkish invasion is becoming increasing probable. I call on everyone not to reconcile themselves with partition, nor to accept the division of our country. I welcome the stance taken by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his recent address before the US Congress, in which he made it abundantly clear that we do not accept a two-state solution.
However, I will not simply linger on the above observations. I propose feasible actions! We must utilise the two keys we have in our hands: energy policy and EU-Turkish relations.
As regards the first, it is important to manage the issue of hydrocarbons as an incentive towards the resumption of negotiations, a proposal put forward by Akel in 2020. I would add that this proposal is now even more timely following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Today energy matters are becoming increasingly urgent.
The second key relates to EU-Turkey relations. The EU-Turkey ‘positive agenda’ incorporates the solution of the Cyprus problem, which is a European problem. Progress in Turkey’s relations with the EU must be linked to progress in the substance of the Cyprus problem. This is an important lever for the EU to have communication corridors and influence on Ankara. These are opportunities and it is our duty to direct them towards a resolution.
Through our efforts, we can change things and build a Cyprus we are all proud of. We cannot leave the Cyprus problem unresolved as a legacy to our children. Cyprus deserves better!
Achilleas Demetriades is a lawyer and candidate for the 2023 presidential election