Thorny territory issue debated among Turkish Cypriots
By Esra Aygin
As it becomes almost certain that Cypriot leaders Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades will be going abroad in November to discuss territory, the issue is a widely-debated topic among the Turkish Cypriots.
Akinci and Anastasiades will be meeting a total of 10 times until October 31, with the aim of overcoming the remaining difficulties in the chapters of governance and power-sharing, economy, EU Affairs and property.
If everything goes according to plan, the sides will take the talks to a third country to discuss territory.
The Turkish Cypriot side, fearing media leaks and disinformation if the issue is discussed on the island, requested a third-country venue.
This would both reduce the time required to finalise a deal and minimise the risk of speculation about places to be given to a future Greek Cypriot constituent state, it argued.
The sides have so far limited the discussion on territory to criteria, without putting village names, figures or maps on the table.
The official Turkish Cypriot position so far has been that territorial adjustments should be kept at a minimum since the European nature of the settlement would enable all citizens to reside freely anywhere on the island.
Some Turkish Cypriots agree that the issue of territory must now be considered in the much broader context of a modern European country, where the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot constituent states will be more of administrative entities rather than clear-cut borders.
Others, however, argue that a fair formula is for the Turkish Cypriot side to get political equality and share in the governance and give territory in return.
Niyazi Kizilyurek, dean of the School of Humanities of the University of Cyprus, says that Cyprus negotiations have been based on the formula of “political equality and power-sharing in exchange for territory” since 1975.
He warned that failing to meet the expectations of the Greek Cypriot side under the territory chapter would endanger a solution.
“A solution requires you to give what you have in excess and take what you are lacking,” said International Relations Professor Ahmet Sozen.
“The Turkish Cypriot side’s hand is strong in terms of property and territory, whereas the Greek Cypriot side’s hand is strong in terms of governance and power.”
Turkish Cypriot non-governmental organisations called on the Turkish Cypriot leadership to make the necessary concessions in territory and properties for the sake of a federal solution in Cyprus.
“We would like to remind the Greek Cypriot side that political equality and rotational presidency are very important for Turkish Cypriots. We would also like to remind the Turkish Cypriot side that territory and properties are very important for the Greek Cypriots.”
Akinci must walk a very fine line between trying to secure solution support from the Turkish Cypriot right wing, which is very sensitive about territorial adjustments, while not alienating the Greek Cypriot side, which brands territory as a ‘make or break’ for negotiations.