Tackling the hard Issues is the Cyprus Problem
By Steven Roberts…….
As the Cyprus talks are due to move to Geneva for five days of intensive discussions on the difficult issue of territory, this article published in the Cyprus Weekly click here explains the background to the key issues for Cypriots. The writer is Honorary Senior Research Fellow La Trobe University and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow School of Primary Health Care Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Monash University.
So, with the crucial talks due to start, when you read the following you have to ask yourself who is going to give ground the most, the Greek Cypriots or the Turkish Cypriots?
Tackling the hard issues
By Michalis S. Michael
As the current round of the Cyprus talks intensify and promise to reach a crescendo in the next 6-9 months, it seems timely to take stock, review and, I dare say, pontificate on how an imagined solution effects – or deters – the politics of change and continuity.
Despite a certain degree of acrimonious denial and voracious vocal politicking, there is no doubt that 2016-2017 is shaping up as a time of reckoning for a settlement in Cyprus.
Throughout its long history, two issues have particularly frustrated the Cyprus peace process: territory and security. Clearly, each side has different concerns, interests and priorities – including prescribed “red lines” – when it comes to these issues.
In terms of security and guarantees, for the Greek Cypriots the “red line” entails the complete withdrawal of all Turkish troops, the abolition of all guarantor powers and questioning the presence of non-Turkish Cypriots on the island……
As far as territorial adjustments and property are concerned, the Greek-Cypriots equate them with the “right of return” for all refugees and the maximum recovery of the “lost lands” that resulted from the detachment of northern Cyprus in 1974.
By contrast, the security “red line” for Turkish Cypriots consists of their demand for a Turkish military presence on the island and a guarantee from Turkey, alone, as effective measures that would protect them.
Regarding territorial adjustments and the return of property, Turkish Cypriots have consistently advocated for retaining most of northern Cyprus for economic and security reasons and minimising its impact on creating a “second wave” of Turkish Cypriot refugees.
Borrowing from the neighbouring Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prevailing diplomatic wisdom in terms of the territorial and property issues has always been exchanging “land for peace” – or in Cyprus’s case “territory for normalisation” – with the pertinent question being: ‘where to draw the line?’
As with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this chapter has been complicated by diverging and competing demands over the right of return, recognition, security and normalisation.
Of course, normalisation tends to benefit the stronger side, which is why the plethora of initiatives by well-meaning third parties to promote reconciliation are often frustrated by most Palestinians.
The analogy with Cyprus’s reconciliation movement to “normalise” relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots is fraught by acrimonious accusations of lending recognition, and forgiving past injustices emanating from 1974.
The fracas over the Cyprus Theatre Organisation’s staging of Sophocles’ Antigone at the ancient amphitheatre of Salamis in Famagusta, is but a recent example of how symbolism leads to collective self-flagellation by “narcissism of the unjust”.
You see, in a polarised environment, with a society under duress, and in the absence of a genuine dialogue, understanding becomes a rare commodity, even among those who profess good intentions.
The need to address each side’s fears and expectations becomes the key to any understanding, accommodation, agreement and harmonious coexistence.
In terms of territory, we need to constantly ask ourselves, and each other, the pertinent questions. Why are territorial adjustments necessary? What are the costs and benefits of such adjustments? What can be done to reduce their negative impact? How do territorial adjustments affect – and are affected by – the property issue? And, how can harm, to both the legal owners and current occupants, of specific properties be minimised under any property restoration scheme?
In discussing the contentious security issue, and how each side’s security needs can be effectively met, we need to approach the problem from a different perspective.
One that the official negotiations seem unable or incapable of adopting: human security.
After re-stating each side’s security concerns, both sides need to reflect on how Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots (including Turkey) can make the other side feel more secure.
Meaning that the public policy debate over security needs to be turned upside down, so that each side’s problem becomes the other sides’ problem to be solved by them!
So, in the Cyprus context, Greek Cypriots (as the majority on the island) need to make the Turkish Cypriots (as the minority), feel secure so as not to need the presence of Turkey as a guarantor for their safety and well-being.
Equally, Turkish Cypriots need to assure the Greek Cypriots (as the minority in the sub-region) that they are safe from Turkey!