A failure to reach a deal in Switzerland could scar generations
July 15, 2017
“Rejecting the most possible with the assertion of rightfulness”, as reputable Cypriot Professor Niyazi Kizilyurek describes it, has resulted in another failure in Cyprus. It could, this time, be definitive, and lead to the permanent partition of the island.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, had made unprecedented progress in the chapters of governance and power-sharing, property, territory, EU and economy in the last two years.
The sixth chapter, security and guarantees would be finalised with the participation of guarantor powers in Crans-Montana, along with the outstanding issues in all other chapters – rotating presidency and effective participation of Turkish Cypriots.
The sides knew almost exactly how a final settlement would look like in all chapters other than security and guarantees. All that was needed was the courage and will, and, of course, realism, to take that final step and make history.
Independent sources confirm that Turkey, during the last dinner of the conference, signalled it was ready to give up the guarantees and the right of unilateral intervention within the framework of an agreement on all other outstanding issues. It asked for the prime ministers to come and decide whether there would be a review clause or sunset clause for the remaining 650 Turkish troops after a solution.
Diplomats close to the conference acknowledge that this was the best offer Turkey could make “without appearing defeated in Cyprus or having submitted to the Greek Cypriot side”. Nobody can tell, of course, if Turkey was sincere when making the final openings. But it is a fact that its sincerity was not even tested.
The Greek Cypriot side asked for the offers in writing, objected to the prime ministers coming to Crans-Montana and insisted on zero troops and zero guarantees on the first day of solution. The conference failed in the early hours of Friday, July 7. The security and guarantees question, which led to the loss of the best chance Cypriots ever had to unite their island, has always been treated as a mere slogan rather than being discussed in a realistic and rational manner.
The reality is that, currently, there are some 40,000 Turkish troops on the island and Turkey is a guarantor power of the Republic of Cyprus with unilateral intervention rights. There is a de facto ceasefire on the island – not even a ceasefire agreement. A war was lost in 1974, and no victor has ever picked up its marbles and left any country just like that. The choice we had on July 7 was one between 40,000 troops in 146 locations, guarantees and unilateral intervention rights in a divided country, or 650 troops stationed in one location for a certain period of time and guarantes and intervention rights for a transitional period in a unified federal EU state.
Unfortunately, fears and short-term political agendas won over realism and reason at Crans-Montana. We ensured that 40,000 troops stay in Cyprus, and Turkey remains a guarantor power with unilateral intervention rights. We lost the best and probably the last opportunity to unite Cyprus. We chose to hold our future hostage to our past. We burdened our children with the division of generations long-gone. Cyprus is now in uncharted waters.