Monday 20 March 2017

Cyprus has never been this close to unification… or permanent division

Esra Aygin

Almost 50 years on since the start of negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem, the island has never been this close to being reunified… or being permanently divided…

For many Cypriots – Turkish and Greek – who spent most, if not all, of their lives witnessing negotiations that constantly fail and restart again and again, the mention of a “last chance” is hardly convincing. Nevertheless, I will take my chances and argue that the year 2017 will mark the end of efforts for a federal solution on the island – either because we will reach a settlement, or fail - in which case the northern part of Cyprus will rapidly integrate/disintegrate into Turkey.

Two Cypriot leaders - Mr. Mustafa Akinci and Mr. Nicos Anastasiades – through unprecedented determination, courage and empathy - have been able to take the discussions on a federal solution to the Cyprus problem to a level never reached before in the history of negotiations going on since 1968.

Everything on every single chapter of Cyprus negotiations – governance and power-sharing, property, economy, European Union, territory, and security and guarantees - has been said, and every possible argument has been heard. Now it is time to act and take that final step to seal a deal.

With the most difficult issues that can be solved by the two Cypriot leaders behind them and a very good understanding of what is achievable and what is not, a lot now depends on the ability of Mr. Akinci and Mr. Anastasiades to leave aside being community leaders and act as Cypriot statesmen in the face of be it the guardians of the status-quo on both sides of the island, who will not shy away from doing everything possible to jeopardise a successful outcome to the process, or be it the guarantor powers, who will use the Cyprus issue to negotiate their own broader interests in the region.

Mr. Akinci and Mr. Anastasiades will now - more than ever -have to think as Cypriots for one Cyprus, so that the future of the island is not kept hostage to other countries’ interests that go far beyond Cyprus. 

I don't believe in states having ‘good/bad will’ or 'sincerity/insincerity,' but only interests. So if Akinci and Anastasiades can continue to take unfaltering steps in the path they set out as two Cypriot statesmen, and the interests of the guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom are aligned, Cyprus will be reunited in 2017.

If not, the division of the island will be cemented once and for all. I don’t expect the UN to continue to waste time, energy and resources on a federal solution in Cyprus, which will have proved impossible under every combination of leaderships. Almost 50 years is enough time to give up…

As for the northern part of the island, even if there is no de jure annexation to Turkey, this will be the de facto result. The failure of the current process will mean further unrestricted and rapid demographic, economic, political, religious, social, and cultural alteration of the north.

The Turkification and Islamisation of north Cyprus will - before long - be complete with unrestricted transfer of population from Turkey, with pressure on Turkish Cypriots on every field of life - who will eventually have to adapt to survive - and with Turkish capital seizing all vital sectors and filling any empty land.

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