Our approach to the contested and sensitive issue of security and guarantees will be decisive on whether the Cyprus problem is solved or not.
And rather than being discussed publicly in a realistic and rational manner, it is being treated as a mere slogan.
Those who say a solution is not possible unless it results in zero troops and zero guarantees in Cyprus, conveniently overlook the fact that there are currently some 40,000 Turkish troops on the island and that Turkey is a guarantor power of the Republic of Cyprus with unilateral intervention rights as set out in Article IV* of the Treaty of Guarantees.
The Treaty of Guarantees as well as the Treaty of Alliance is currently in place and in effect.
And contrary to what many would like to think, the troop presence in Cyprus and Turkey’s rights arising from the Treaty of Guarantees and Alliance are not a problem of the northern part of Cyprus only.
The south is not an insulated, protected area that will suddenly be exposed to Turkey only in the case of a solution.
We live under conditions of ceasefire on this island. There is not even a ceasefire agreement – just a de facto ceasefire. Even this fact should be enough to make any reasonable person demand an end to the status quo and a successful conclusion of the negotiations process.
The failed military coup of July 15 in Turkey should have been enough to bring all of us out on the streets demanding a solution. However, we continue to bury our heads in the sand and imagine we live in a protective bubble.
Nobody has been able to answer my question of what would have happened in Cyprus if the July 15 coup attempt had been successful. Nobody knows. Nobody can.
Nobody can know what would happen tomorrow, if there is another military coup, an escalation of tension in Turkey, the seas around Cyprus or the region involving Turkey.
The choice we are faced with is not one between a demilitarised Cyprus without troops, guarantees or intervention rights against a few thousand troops stationed in one location for a certain period of time, and restricted guarantees without unilateral intervention rights.
The choice is one between 40,000 troops in 146 locations, effective guarantees and unilateral intervention rights and a few thousand troops stationed in one location for a certain period of time and restricted guarantees without unilateral intervention rights in a united EU member state.
A war was lost in 1974.
No victor has ever picked up its marbles and left just like that. And our immediate neighbourhood is a daily example that there is no need for any troop presence or guarantee agreement for the powerful to intervene in against the weak.
And the smaller, more divided, more ‘de facto’ a country is, the more exposed it is to an outside threat.
Now, we can all get realistic and rational, seize this opportunity to unite this island, and embrace a united Cyprus with all its citizens. Or we can reject a solution and continue to shout “zero troops, zero guarantees”.
And ironically, ensure that 40,000 troops stay in Cyprus, and Turkey remains a guarantor power with unilateral intervention rights. The time to make the choice has arrived.
*Article IV of Treaty of Guarantees
In the event of a breach of the provisions of the present Treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or measures necessary to ensure observance of those provisions.
In so far as common or concerted action may not prove possible, each of the three guaranteeing Powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present Treaty.