YAVUZ – Cyprus: Same gap between desire and hope

Cyprus: Same gap between desire and hopeWas it a coincidence that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) just ordered Turkey to pay damages in the amount of 90 million euros to the (Greek)ypriot government for the Greek Cypriot families regarded as the victims of the Turkish invasion in 1974?The answer is not important. It is the ruling itself and its consequences that matter most. So, the much more important question is whether or not the verdict will overshadow the negotiations that are now intensifying.The signs are that Ankara will downplay the judgment. According to Deputy Prime Minister BeIir Atalay, no one should expect the process to come to a halt, though he found the ruling “a bit far-fetched.”Regardless of all that, should we expect success, this umpteenth time, and a lasting solution that will end the divisive, acrimonious conflict on the island?What has made a difference this time, after a lapse in the negotiations of two years, was the external pressure — particularly from the US — stemming from the vital security and energy dimensions in the east Mediterranean region. Add to that the encouragement and engagement of the two “related” and guarantor countries, Turkey and Greece, which seem willing to strengthen a four-party discussion in order to achieve results.There are two domestic factors that the mediators hope will be helpful. Austerity measures and structural reforms pushed by Ankara in the Turkish north dismayed Turkish Cypriots and made them more inclined to find a solution. Meanwhile, the discovery of a significant amount of hydrocarbons in the east Mediterranean basin has opened up new opportunities for efficient conflict resolution — which are particularly meaningful after the Russian-Western rift over Ukraine and Crimea — putting alternatives to Russian gas on the agenda.Mistrust between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leadership is still an unresolved issue. Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiadis, in particular, prefers to deal directly with Ankara. There are ongoing contacts behind the scenes as well.Yet, it takes not just state players, but also civilian society to tango. A survey done recently shows a gap between desire and hope in both communities. To a large extent, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots want to see a successful, comprehensive settlement but have little faith that there will be a breakthrough. Greek Cypriots favor a unitary state, and see a federation as an acceptable option. Turkish Cypriots prefer two states, but are prepared to accept a federation as a compromise.So, fragile though it seems, there is still momentum for peace.But should we be optimistic? According to Ahmet Szen, one of the sharpest observers and analysts of the process, it is “only caution” that matters now, not optimism.Why?He explained to me that the basis of the talks is “vague.”“That is, what was agreed upon before [such as during the time of meetings between Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias in 2008-2010, or KKTC President DerviI EroIlu and Christofias in 2010-2012] is not necessarily agreed upon any longer and does not constitute the basis of the current negotiations. This is very dangerous, in the sense that, currently, the two sides are putting their ideal positions on the negotiation table, as if they were starting from scratch! And, of course, no deadline means — as the last 46 years have proved – that the Cyprus peace talks could drag on forever.“In addition, I see that the two sides have once again fallen into the old patterns: First, the ‘blame game’ — putting the blame on the other side every day in the media, and second, the negotiations — just like the previous ones — are being conducted cut off from the rest of the society. Hence, people will lose hope and interest in the process. There is no internal mechanism for civil society, etc. to be able to encourage the two leaders to take bold action, either.”How far can the US push the process forward?“Today, it is the Americans who are keeping the negotiation process alive. But at the end of the day, there is a limit to what they can do. You need the two Cypriot sides to sit down and deal with the details of a settlement [a peace agreement, a constitution for the federal state, two constitutions for constituent states, the federal laws, and so on]. It is exactly this — what I do not see happening in Cyprus — that keeps me from being optimistic.”

SOURCE: Today Zaman

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