What will be the impacts of Ersin Tatar becoming the leader of the Turkish Cypriot National Unity Party (UBP) was in the back of my head when I was at an Ankara conference listening to Andros Kyprianou, the leader of the Greek Cypriot Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). Without talking to each other, in the absence of efforts for reconciliation, it might be rather difficult to resolve any problem even if the sides might repeat hundreds of times every day that they want a resolution.
It was good that Kyprianou accepted a “private” invitation and visited Ankara. It was good that Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu found time and met over working dinner at his residence with the Greek Cypriot opposition leader. Increased contacts at all levels might help in understanding each other and perhaps facilitate a resolution on the island. Of course, some people might complain that at such a meeting there ought to be someone from Turkish Cyprus. Some people may as well accuse Ankara of bypassing the Turkish Cypriot side and engaging directly with the Greek Cypriot leadership. These are reasonable complaints, underlining a sensitivity produced by more than half a century of effort for the reinstitution of partnership rights and political equality between the two linguistically, religiously and ethnically different two peoples of the same homeland. Some people might as well complain that if Greece was not receiving and listening to Turkish Cypriot politicians why Turkey was meeting with the Greek Cypriot leader on the sidelines of international events or meeting with a senior opposition politician in Ankara? Absolutely right. It would have been great if Greece applied some sort of reciprocity. But if Greeks were in such a mindset, there would not be a Cyprus problem in the first place.
Kyprianou beat around the bush and gave a lengthy lecture on the general situation in the eastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on the potential threats posed, of course, by the American oligarchy, the arms race and the muscle buildup that might one day explode. How could anyone oppose him when he said, under the disguise of democratization, the American administrations pushed the entire region into bloodbath, tears and immense pain? Can anyone oppose him when he said the current Trump administration with its undertakings in the region – not limited to the Iran embargo – was indeed pouring fuel on the fire?
He won the hearts of the Turks when he confessed that he indeed understood Turkey opposed the Greek Cypriot government and the accords it made with Egypt, Israel and Greece because it considered such developments as moves aimed at leaving outside Turkish Cypriots from the natural resources of Cyprus. Great. Finally someone from the Greek side realized why such moves were considered as a breach of the partnership rights of Turkish Cypriots. Yet, like President Nikos Anastasiades, or his predecessors, Kyprianou tried to fool the Turks by saying “Turkish Cypriot rights are guaranteed, they will get them after a resolution.”
The hydrocarbon issue, as well as what should be the objective of the new Cyprus talks, however, must be defined well before any new exercise kicks off. That was the latest statement of Çavuşoğlu. Apparently he told Kyprianou at the dinner that he was against a repeat of a process similar to those tried repeatedly and failed each time. Including federation, but confederation, the two states, as well as option D or option F, and other options that included the sides must first have informal talks on what they really want to achieve on Cyprus.
Federation has been a target for the past more than four decades and repeated efforts all failed because of Greek Cypriot refusal to share power. If federation requires power-sharing and Greek Cypriots, though paying lip service to the federation idea, have difficulty in accepting power-sharing, obviously that option must be discarded.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı was of the same idea after the collapse of the Crans Montana summit. Now, he made a U-turn and started stressing that he would not discuss with Greek Cypriots anything other than federation. Conservatives in North Cyprus — who make up almost 70 percent of the current parliament — and Ankara do not share that position.
“That’s Akıncı’s personal idea,” said Çavuşoğlu in an interview with a Greek Cypriot newspaper. Could it be so? Can Ankara really bypass Akıncı? Or can the conservatives at the Turkish Cypriot parliament decide that time is up to severe the negotiator powers of the president and appoint someone else?
Perhaps some signs of what might be in the pipeline might emerge after the Turkish Cypriots’ new main opposition leader Tatar completes his extensive talks in Ankara this week.