OPINION - Nicos Anastasiades’ dishonesty exposed: Why Cyprus has remained divided to this day
It can be clearly deduced from this entire process that Southern Cyprus will never agree to a solution unless the Greek Cypriots are guaranteed a unitary state with minimal minority rights for the Turks
The writer is an economist, political scientist, and economic lawyer living in Germany. He is also the writer of a book titled “Chess in the Eastern Mediterranean”
After the failure of the unofficial Cyprus meeting in Geneva in April 2021, at which the representatives from both parts of the island and the so-called three mother nations Greece, Turkey, and United Kingdom (UK), together with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, were unable to find common ground for the resumption of solution negotiations, President of Southern Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades pretentiously criticized Turkey and Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar. Anastasiades accused the Turkish side, which is now calling for a two-state solution after 53 years of unsuccessful negotiations for a federal state, of “haughtily pursuing the goal of restoring the Ottoman Empire.” However, Anastasiades is well aware that Greek arbitrariness and the Megali Idea (the establishment of a Greater Greece) are to blame for the unresolved Cyprus negotiations since 1968. Looking back to the referendum on the Annan Plan in 2004, which was regarded as a watershed moment in the Cyprus negotiations and in which the majority of Cypriot Turks voted in favor of a federal solution, it was the rejection of the plan by the island’s Greek residents that led to the failure of reunification.
The United Kingdom annexed Cyprus from the Ottoman Empire in 1914, and the island was administered by the British until 1960 when the Greek-Turkish Republic of Cyprus (RoC) was established. This was followed by years of liberation struggles. The constitution of the RoC was drafted in 1959 in London and Zurich with the so-called “mother states” of Greece and Turkey. The treaties signed there granted these states the right of guarantor power, allowing them to intervene in Cyprus as a last resort, in order to bring about a restoration of in rem conditions, in the event of attempts to annex Cyprus to a third state or a union, as well as violations of the articles and fundamental rights laid down in the constitution. Ankara exercised this right in 1974 after a military coup attempted to annex the island to Greece. This was preceded by a number of events, including the introduction of a proposed constitutional amendment by the island’s Greeks in 1963 to limit the veto power of the vice president, who was of Turkish descent, and to soften the constitutional distribution of offices according to ethnic groups. As a result, official positions reserved for Turks on the island would be reduced or eliminated entirely. The ultimate goal was to Hellenize the island and bring the Megali Idea to fruition. Since the proposal to amend the constitution was rejected by the Turks, the Greek terrorist organization EOKA-B began systematically persecuting and murdering the island’s Turks starting in 1963, with military support from Athens. As a result, only a few years after gaining independence from the British crown, the country was engulfed in civil war. To end the growing Cypriot conflict, peace talks began in Beirut in 1968, but they were unsuccessful, causing the situation on the island to escalate further, and the dicta-regime of Athens eventually attempted to stage a coup in Lefkosa (Nicosia) in 1974.
With the Cyprus Peace Operation, Turkey had to step in to avert the putsch and save the island’s Turks from assimilation or even systematic extermination, invoking its right of guarantor power. The military intervention was legal and confirmed by the Council of Europe Resolution 573 in 1974 and by a ruling of the Supreme Court in Athens in 1979. What is legally reprehensible in return is that, following years of failed peace negotiations (due to maximum demands from Southern Nicosia), the European Union admitted Cyprus to the Union in 2004 under pressure from its member state Greece, with Southern Nicosia’s sole claim to the entire island, although:
- the island’s Greeks had voted in 2004 against federal reunification along the lines of the Annan Plan;
- the Cypriot constitution does not permit the island state to join a union;
- and, the Copenhagen acquis communautaire criterion prohibits a state from joining the union until the acquis can be enforced over its entire territory (i.e., in the north of Cyprus as well).
Despite these (legal) violations, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which was established in 1983 and is still recognized by Turkey alone, has held onto its good intentions and continued to participate in negotiations for the reunification of the island. This is particularly evident in the generous concessions made by Mustafa Akinci, the former Turkish Cypriot president, who is considered a man of the West. Akinci renounced extensive rights for Turkish Cypriots in a joint federal-state and promised Southern Cyprus large swaths of Turkish territory during negotiations in Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 2017, causing outrage in Northern Cyprus. The fact that Nicos Anastasiades nevertheless ended the negotiations in 2017, thereby causing the failure of yet another round of peace talks, shows the audacity of Southern Cyprus.
Anastasiades’ statements in 2018 after the Crans Montana talks also underpin this: He initially advocated for a two-state solution, then, a confederation, and finally a flexible and decentralized federation on the island, with a prime ministerial council, rather than a presidential council, taking over the leadership of the country. Most recently, he has again proposed a federal solution. Trying to find a common thread among these (confusing) suggestions, it becomes clear that it is Greek insatiability and arrogance that have thwarted a solution on the island for the past 53 years. So, it can be clearly deduced from this entire process that Southern Cyprus will never agree to a solution unless the Greek Cypriots are guaranteed a unitary state with minimal minority rights for the Turks. This, in turn, demonstrates that the island’s Greeks remain committed to the Megali Idea and claim the island as their own, as Anastasiades claims, “the island has always been Hellenistic.”
That Anastasiades’ statement is not true and can hardly be misinterpreted in light of the preceding explanations. The island has never before been ruled by a Greek dynasty or been completely Hellenistic at any point in history. Conversely, Cyprus was ruled by the Ottomans for more than 300 years, from 1571 to 1878, with such tolerance that the Orthodox Greeks living on the island have had no difficulty preserving their identity to this day. Moreover, the Cypriot Turks fought alongside the Greeks against the British crown and for an independent Cyprus in the 1950s, so they have at least a claim to autonomy on the island. Moreover, 30 percent of Cypriot territory still belongs to the Muslim Ottoman Foundation (awqâf). Similarly, the ghost city of Maras (Varosha) consists almost entirely of foundation property and land (of the Abdullah Pasha, Bilal Aga, and Lala Mustafa Pasha foundations). The opening of this city in TRNC territory was postponed for decades as a gesture of goodwill until possible reunification, but after years of futile negotiations, North Lefkosa decided to open it last year. All in all, it is clear from the above that the island once belonged to the Ottomans. The hundreds of mosques all over Cyprus also prove this.
As a result, it is clear that, after 53 years of fruitless peace talks, the Turkish Cypriots have no choice but to embark on a new path toward sovereignty rather than continue negotiating with Southern Cyprus on the basis of a joint state. But how can Northern Cyprus achieve recognition by the international community? The answer is simple: to bring about the recognition of Northern Cyprus through good public relations campaigns, intense diplomacy, and persuasion of Ankara’s allies in the world. Above all, it should be communicated in the Western hemisphere that Northern and Southern Ireland are also separate and that no state in the world is forcing them to reunite, even though, unlike the parties to the conflict in Cyprus, the two sides do not differ in ethnicity but only in their religious beliefs. Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has stated on numerous occasions that a two-state solution is the only way to achieve lasting peace in Cyprus. According to recent rumors, Britain may recognize Northern Cyprus as a state, and given that many Cypriot Turks live in the UK, intense diplomacy could be used in London to this end. Most importantly, Turkey must convince its allies Russia, Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, and the Turkic states in Central Asia to recognize Northern Cyprus and emphasize the benefits that will accrue.
One thing is certain: as long as Ankara and North Lefkosa remain steadfast, Northern Cyprus has many alternatives to go its own way. Finally, it should be stated that the recognition of Northern Cyprus would benefit the Greek Cypriots as well, as it would open Turkish ports to Southern Cyprus.
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