Cypriots back in the island

Newly-elected president of northern Cyprus Mustafa Akinci has always been an outsider, and the impression he gave during elections, of being an atypical politician, has proven to be true. He was different from the other candidates because he was distant from all circles of power, including those in Ankara. This independence is what made him so valuable and appealing to voters, and is also the cause of Ankara’s strong reaction to him.

Could his election motto, “Akinci as an answer to the status quo and the lack of resolution” be considered something Ankara would be pleased with? His election has marked the end of Turkey’s colonialist policy and the policy of preventing a resolution that has been upheld by a number of political and academic actors. The people in northern Cyprus have become the people of Cyprus. From the perspectives of the Greek Cypriots, it can be said that their reliance on Greece, their membership to the EU, the pressure upon Turkey because of the membership talks, Turkey’s policy of isolation, the extraction of fossil fuel in the southern territorial waters and general alienation in the international arena — all factors that aided them strategically in the past — are no longer working to their advantage. In the end, both sides looked elsewhere for support, but these efforts were futile, and the parties ultimately returned to the island.

Now, for the first time since the military intervention and the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, a serious momentum toward reviving relations has emerged. Akinci and president of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiadis can not start from scratch. There are different options regarding how best to lay the groundwork for a federal Cyprus. As in the disputes surrounding areas such as Kashmir and Jerusalem, many solutions to the problems faced by those seeking to reunify the island have been offered. The Annan Plan is an encyclopedia in itself. Past negotiations have laid the proper groundwork for cooperation and agreement. It appears that the parties will now be focused on measures to build confidence. It also appears that they want to move forward on concrete issues rather than hold meetings behind closed doors.

This may eliminate any potential manipulation and interference by Ankara. The Greek side of negotiations has already disclosed the measures they had offered to build confidence in the past, but which were rejected by former president of northern Cyprus Dervii Eroilu. Greek Cyprus Foreign Minister Yoannis Kasulidis noted that it would be possible to open the Ercan Airport to international flights, excluding those from Turkey, without having to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). The recognition of the UN supervision of Marai is also another vital move. This is also the case with the opening of the Famagusta port. Another issue under discussion is the guarantor rights Turkey has been referring to. The treaty signed by Britain, Turkey, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 guarantees the existence of two communities on the island and the independence of Cyprus. In other words, it offers a guarantee vis-agrave-vis the partition of the island and the alliance of Cyprus with another country (Greece or Turkey). However, the treaty does not give Turkey the right to have influence over the decisions of the KKTC.

Besides, the rights ensured in this treaty may no longer be applicable, given that what we have is a de facto partition. In spite of this, Turkey has relied on this treaty to justify its actions so far, including military intervention. And, for this reason, these rights have served as a red line for Turkey in the negotiations. Greece, on the other hand, has argued that these rights no longer apply, given that Cyprus has become a member of the EU. Recently, Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kocas announced that Greece wants to withdraw from the treaty. If Britain does the same, Turkey may be left alone in this matter. Besides, Anastasiadis has offered future NATO membership as a serious and strong alternative to the treaty and the rights it specifies. The only downside to the historical momentum that emerged when Akinci came to power has been the harsh discourse put forth by Ankara.

However, as a country that is alienated in the region and in the world, Turkey cannot possibly undermine this momentum. The new state to be established in Cyprus will survive despite Ankara’s strong desires to intervene and any attempts to this effect will only contribute to Turkey’s further alienation on the global stage.