News, interviews and opinions on Cyprus peace process
Saturday 12 August 2017
No Cyprus solution without breaking old taboos
April 7, 2017
By Esra Aygin
The resumption of negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem depends on a decision in the (Greek Cypriot) Republic of Cyprus parliament on Friday on a proposal that is expected to overturn an earlier vote in February to commemorate a 1950 Enosis plebiscite in public schools.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci stated earlier this week that he is ready to resume negotiations on April 11.
“Our position on this is very well known,” said Akinci, following his meeting in Brussels with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“Our joint understanding is that the developments in the coming days will render a new start possible.”
Ruling DISY has tabled an amendment to transfer the authority to decide on school commemorations to the Education Minister, which makes it possible for the minister to overturn the Enosis decision.
“The leaders’ meeting on April 11 is not a given,” said a Turkish Cypriot source close to the negotiations. “It depends on the approval of the new proposal.”
Akinci left the negotiation table in February when Greek Cypriot deputies voted for annual commemorations in state schools of a 1950 Enosis plebiscite in support of union with Greece.
The Enosis decision led to a collective backlash among the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots, who consider the Enosis aim as the reason behind the inter-communal clashes of the 1960s that saw them withdraw from all state organs of the Republic of Cyprus and move into enclaves throughout the island.
Even if the legislative amendment goes through today and the negotiations resume on April 11, there is widespread scepticism about whether the sides will be able to reach an agreement in the limited time available.
There is a broad understanding that a number of internal and external factors, such as hydrocarbon exploration activities off the coast of Cyprus and the commencement of the campaign period of the February 2018 presidential elections in the south, will complicate negotiations beyond May.
“When I look at the recent behaviour of the leaders, the chances are not very high,” said Professor of International Relations Ahmet Sozen.
Both leaders resorted to nationalist rhetoric and a blame game over the last two months. Tensions escalated and the confidence between the two communities received a serious blow as the media on both sides also got involved in the blame game.
“Those who want to make peace should break taboos,” said Sozen.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see this in the two leaders. They are stuck within the known traditional limits. You cannot make peace with these limits. … Making peace requires leadership, it requires courage, it requires going over the limits and breaking taboos."