Turkey, Europe

New ideas needed to solve Cyprus dispute

In face of Greek Cypriot obstructionism, conference in Turkish Cyprus to seek new paths to solve dispute over divided island

Tugcenur Yilmaz   | 29.03.2019
New ideas needed to solve Cyprus dispute


A conference next week in Turkish Cyprus will explore new models for solving the longstanding dispute over the divided island in the face of Greek Cypriot obstructionism. 

Solving the dispute might prove impossible after failed negotiations under UN mediation in 2004 and 2017 in addition to the Greek Cypriot administration seeing the Turkish side as a minority.

The island has lacked a permanent solution for at least 55 years, as the old Constitution granting equal rights and status to Turkish and Greek Cypriot nationals was abolished by the Greeks in 1963, three years after the foundation of the Republic of Cyprus.

The island of Cyprus was very close to solving this dispute when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered solutions to both sides in 2002.

At first the Greeks accepted the UN-backed Annan plan to reunify the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, but ahead of a referendum then they campaigned against the plan.

In a 2004 referendum, the Annan plan was approved by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) by 64.91 percent but the Greeks rejected it by 75.83 percent.

In 2015 new reunification talks -- brokered by UN Special Cyprus Envoy Espen Barth Eide -- were launched to seek a permanent settlement for the divided Mediterranean island.

In an on-again, off-again peace process in recent years, the latest failed initiative took place in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in 2017 under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the U.K.

Diplomatic sources, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency that the Greek Cypriot authorities would not accept a new partnership model based on political equality for both sides.

The same sources said that the Greek side’s intolerance of equal rights for Greeks and Turks caused the failure of the last two negotiation processes.

They said Turkey and the Turkish nationals in Cyprus do not oppose any model for political equality but the two sides must agree on a joint vision and basis before any new talks about the island's fate.

Restarted negotiations without mutual efforts are likely doomed to failure. 

International Cyprus conference 

Alternative models for a solution on Cyprus will be discussed at Near East University on April 1-3 in a conference titled “The Cyprus Issue: The Past, Present, and Future of Cyprus” in Lefkosa, the capital of Turkish Cyprus. 

More than 50 academics and experts from various countries and research fields will discuss how the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean could affect the Cyprus issue. 

Also set to be discussed are the process of negotiation, political and social problems in the TRNC, and the representation of Turkish Cypriots in the international arena. 

Papers presented at the conference will later be collected in a book to be published by Springer. 

The conference will discuss the changing situation of Cyprus and evaluate new ideas for a solution, Huseyin Gokcekus, dean of the Civil Engineering Faculty at the TRNC’s Near East University, told Anadolu Agency.  

“Solving the Cyprus dispute through a federation is impossible,” he said.  

The conference will focus on new solution models such as “one island, two states,” he added. 

Confederation or 2-state solution

Haluk Kabaalioglu, a senior Turkish academic, said the idea of a bi-zonal and communal federation on Cyprus was actually raised long ago.

"Cyprus should be a confederation or a two-state solution, as EU institutions would have no guarantee of assurances in a bi-zonal and communal federation due to their supranational powers,” he said.

“Turkish Cypriots’ approval is needed for any confederation model,” he added.

“If the parties’ mutual trust of the parties is ensured or Turkey becomes a full member of the EU, then there could be a transformation from confederation to federation,” he said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power.

The island has seen a sporadic peace process in recent years, including the collapse of a 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K.

Turkey says that any future talks over the divided island of Cyprus must be result-oriented, rather than just for the sake of talking.

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