By Ozay Mehmet
If Kemal Kilicdaroglu wins the Turkish general election, a win-win-win solution on Cyprus may be within reach. The name of the solution would be confederation.
President Nicos Christodoulides may get his wish for greater EU role; the Turkish north may have its two-states, and the Greek south may achieve its reunification through a single Cyprus in the EU based on an agreed Belgian type of rotation at Brussels.
A win by Kemal Bey will mean nothing short of the restoration of Kemalist secularism in Turkey, most likely a via a constitutional referendum to replace RTE’s one-man presidency by a return to a full parliamentary democracy.
If the opposition coalition remains united, and the Brussels politicians use a ‘carrot rather than a stick’ strategy to normalise the EU-Ankara relations, I would expect a phased improvement in Greek-Turkish relations across the Aegean. Indeed, the Venizelos-Ataturk model of peace in 1930s may be utilised to settle the Aegean dispute on the basis of maritime resource co-management. A model of this is in my latest book.
The Kurds, whose vote would be crucial in a Kemal Bey win, can also expect a major peace dividend in greater democratic rights within a united Turkey. Kurdish rights would be a topic open to negotiation with Brussels as well as the Kurds themselves. Kemal Bey would emerge as a Turkish Gandhi.
Kemal Bey, himself, is an Alevi, so his win would mean greater religious tolerance, a welcome step away from Erdogan’s Islamism. This would go down well in highly Kemalist, secular northern Cyprus.
The critical element in the entire diplomatic edifice would be the key features of the Cyprus confederation. It would be bi-ethnic, a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north, for sure. There would be an agreed border with an EU regime regarding the property claims settlement, most likely funded through Estonian-style land bonds, guaranteed by the EU and implemented through the immovable property mechanism already in place in the north.
As regards Cyprus representation in Brussels institutions, a Belgian-style rotation could be devised with the south and north taking turns. Confederal power-sharing arrangements can be worked out by experts from the UN and the EU relatively quickly. Much can be learnt from, for example, the Canadian model of fiscal federalism and solidarity transfers in the EU to phase out, or supplement, Turkish aid to the north.
All the above would require a huge amount of goodwill to achieve the three-way win-win-win scenario. At this stage, we can only ask questions: would the leadership on both sides go for it? Would the Brussels politicians choose the right set of ‘carrots’? Would there be sufficient funding for a land bond system in Cyprus?
At the end of the day, all would depend on goodwill and willingness to make it all happen. Political solutions, especially those requiring power-sharing as in Greek-Turkish relations or on Cyprus, require, above all else, men and women of goodwill to go for the essential compromise and give and take.
In short, a Kemal Bey win may break the long-standing impasse, known as the CyProb, given the right amount of goodwill by the UN, EU and the Greek and Turkish political leaders.
Ozay Mehmet is a distinguished research professor in international affairs (emeritus) at Carleton University in Ottawa. His latest book is Yorucu & Mehmet ‘Small Islands in Maritime Disputes: Greek-Turkish Energy Geo-politics’, Springer, Switzerland, 2022