News, interviews and opinions on Cyprus peace process
Tuesday 31 January 2017
Turk equality card
By Esra Aygin
Reviving the Conference on Cyprus will largely depend on whether the Cypriot leaders are able to reach agreement on how Turkish and Greek nationals will be treated post settlement.
It is understood that Turkey signalled flexibility in guarantees only if there is agreement between the two sides on the four freedoms of the European Union to apply for Turkish nationals in the event of a solution.
“It seems that only after this issue is clarified, can a date for the next political session of the conference be set,” said a diplomatic source close to the negotiations. “The ball is back in the Cypriot leaders’” and the EU institution’s court.
Turkey’s demand is aimed at securing equal treatment of Turkish and Greek nationals – something based on the principle of ‘balance of power’ between Turkey and Greece which was originally established in the 1960 Constitution.
The Annan Plan also had provisions to retain the greatest possible balance between the rights in Cyprus of EU member Greece and non-EU member Turkey.
The principle of equal treatment of nationals from Turkey and Greece in the event of a solution had been agreed in principle by former Cypriot leaders Mehmet Ali Talat and Demetris Christofias, on condition that it did not affect the demographic structure of the island.
Leaders Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades had confirmed this agreement at the beginning of the current process.
But positions at the table seem to be different, as Ankara’s demand for ‘equal treatment with Greece’ may well now mean applying the four freedoms of the EU unrestrictedly to Turkish nationals.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes reiterated this demand on Wednesday, hours before Akinci and Anastasiades were to meet.
“We requested that the four freedoms should apply to Turkey,” said Turkes. “If not, then Greek nationals should be deprived of this also. In other words, let’s create equality in rights and privileges or in deprivation.”
Political observers agree that the full application of four freedoms of the EU to Turkish nationals is not realistic, while saying that certain parameters of the freedoms could apply in a way that furthers Turkey’s already existing privileges arising from the Customs Union and Ankara Agreements with the EU.
Observers also question how far Turkey can push this demand, as it could well lead to a deadlock in the process – something Turkey would not want to be responsible for.
An international Conference on Cyprus two weeks ago in Geneva brought together the Cypriot leaders and the foreign ministers of guarantor states – Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom – to discuss the thorny issue of security and guarantees.
The Conference continued last week in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, where a working group of experts from all five parties discussed the issue at a technical level.
Although the agreement was to reconvene the Conference on a political level immediately thereafter, no date has yet been set, since any progress on security and guarantees now clearly depends on progress on the issue of equal treatment of Turks and Greeks.