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Turkey in Europe and beyond: the Cyprus issue 19 mai 2010

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review (Turkey), Wednesday, May 19, 2010

David Hannay *

1. Pessimists have always outnumbered optimists so far as resolving the Cyprus problem is concerned – and rightly so if you look back over the last 45 years of failed attempts to do just that, a diplomatic battlefield strewn with the withering bones of numerous U.N. secretary generals, U.N. special representatives, mediators and facilitators from the main Security Council operators and of course leaders of the two communities in Cyprus. Many of them walked away, pronouncing the problem insoluble. Despite myself spending seven years breaking my teeth on the basic intractability of the issues and on the challenge of getting the two Cypriot parties and their backers in Greece and Turkey to reach workable compromises on those issues, I am not one of that school of thought. The problem is, I believe, soluble.

2. First, an existential question – does it matter? Could not the world simply job along with the Cyprus problem unsolved? Living with that status quo which so many Security Council resolutions have futilely denounced, and declared to be unacceptable? Not so long ago a prime minister of Turkey – Bülent Ecevit – used to tell his visitors that he had solved the Cyprus problem in 1974. But, quite apart from the problems on the island itself, which have admittedly somewhat eased in recent years with the lessening of tensions along the cease fire Green Line, with the opening up of more crossing points and with increased contacts between the two communities, the list of reasons why accepting the status quo makes no sort of sense is a long one. Cyprus remains a painful pebble in the shoe of Turkey’s EU accession negotiation without whose removal it is hard to see those negotiations ever being brought to successful conclusion; Cyprus is in addition already complicating negatively Turkey’s existing customs union relationship with the EU as the Ankara Protocol remains unimplemented; it is frustrating attempts to build a better working relationships with all of Turkey’s neighbors, it is the weakest link in that chain – because Cyprus is a neighbor of Turkey, every bit as significant for the success of the new policy as Syria, Iraq or Armenia, and its relationship to Turkey will affect, either positively or negatively, that of another neighbor, Greece. The list is surely long enough to answer the question, even if experience did not tell one, as it does, that Cyprus neglected is all too likely to bite the international community painfully in the ankle at some unexpected moment. So Abdullah Gül was surely right when he first coined the phrase in 2002: “No solution in Cyprus is no solution.”

3. So what needs to be done if the Cyprus problem is to be solved and not neglected? The first essential requirement is to keep the present U.N.-sponsored negotiating process going and to continue to give it the Security Council’s and Greece and Turkey’s full support. It needs to be sustained through whatever vicissitudes electoral shifts on either side in Cyprus may throw at it. Progress may have been painfully slow since the process resumed two years ago, but progress there has been particularly on issues of the governance of a newly re-united Cyprus. The other big issues, of property, territory and security now need to be addressed with equal determination. Why persevere with a framework and a format which has so far yielded so few results? Because there are no obviously viable, or even remotely viable, alternatives. The framework of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation was set by agreement from the two sides as long ago as 1977. Since then there have been sporadic attempts to break away from that framework, for example Rauf Denktash’s ideas for a confederation. Such ideas have not evoked a scintilla of support and are no more likely to do so in the future than in the past. The same is true of attempts to break away from the format of negotiations between the leaders of the two communities under the aegis of the U.N. Again, suggestions have been made of an EU-led process or of the involvement of the two parts of Cyprus and of Greece and Turkey. But these are displacement activities fated to get nowhere.

4. I will spare you a long meander through the details of the main component parts of the Cyprus problem – governance, property, security and territory. Suffice it to point out that in the period from 2002 to 2004, for the first time, all the elements needed for a comprehensive settlement of all these matters were put on the negotiating table. Of course those elements, in the form they were then presented, led to the split outcomes of the two referendums in the spring of 2004. So changes there will have to be if a deal is to be struck. If only one could get away from the zero-sum calculations to which Cypriots on both sides of the divide are so devoted and could recognize that changes to deal with sensitive points for one of the parties do not necessarily and involve precisely equivalent damage to, or concessions by the other, then the prospects for progress would greatly improve. One reason for avoiding making detailed suggestions, as to what needs to be changed, is that such changes must emerge from a process of give and take between the two Cypriot parties and not seem to be being imposed from the outside. In 2004, it was just too easy for opponents of the Annan Plan to say that it was simply a great power diktat. On this occasion, if an agreement is to emerge, it must involve the firm commitment of the leaders of both communities and a willingness to back the outcome in the referendums, which will have to follow.

5. You may or you may not find this analysis reasonably convincing. But you will surely ask why should such an approach work this time when it has failed to work so often in the past? And you would be right to pose that question, to which there is currently no fully satisfactory answer. Because there is a crucial piece missing from the equation, namely the fate of Turkey’s bid to join the EU. For 15 years or so now, and for the foreseeable future, the chances of a settlement of Cyprus problem have revolved around and been inseparably linked to the progress being made in the bids of Cyprus and of Turkey to join the EU. What started during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s of the last century as an international dispute with heavy Cold War overtones has now metamorphosed into a European conundrum. In the first phase, after the end of the Cold War, the key question was whether the EU would make it an absolute condition for Cyprus joining the EU that there should be a prior settlement of the Cyprus problem. In the next phase the key question was whether the negotiations to settle the Cyprus problem could be brought to a head and insight of a successful conclusion while Cyprus’ accession to negotiations were still under way and all parties, the Greek Cypriots most notably, could have been pressed by the EU to seal a deal. That question too was answered in the negative when Cyprus’ EU accession treaty was signed in 2003; and when a divided Cyprus was admitted the following year. Now we are in a third phase when the key factor is Turkey’s own accession bid which could be at stake, but when, so far at least, the divisions within the EU over Turkey’s eventual accession have prevented that factor from coming fully into play as the driver of a Cyprus solution.

6. None so far emerges from this sequence with very much credit. The EU cut the ground from under the U.N. when they removed the need for a Cyprus solution as a condition for EU membership. Rauf Denktash ensured by his negative attitude that the long period of Cyprus’ accession negotiations could not be used in any effective way to bring about a solution. And Tassos Papadopoulos drove a stake through the heart of the Anna Plan. And now those within the EU who most vociferously oppose Turkish accession and work to slow down the negotiations are most surely undermining the rationale of the Cyprus negotiations. The fact that that group includes not only France, Germany and Austria but Cyprus too is indeed a bitter irony since it is Cyprus that stands to gain most both politically and economically from Turkey’s accession, assuming that one discounts, as I do, any chance of Turkey joining the EU while the status quo in Cyprus continues; and it is Cyprus that stands to lose the most if Turkey’s accession bid flounders, because in those circumstances I would predict with considerable confidence that there will not be a Cyprus solution.

7. Does that mean one should lose hope over Cyprus? I do not think so. So long as there is life in Turkey’s accession negotiations, and that means for as long as Turkey, in Harold Wilson’s phrase when confronted with General de Gaulle’s second veto of Britain’s accession, refused to take “no” for an answer, then there will be real hope for a Cyprus settlement. That argues against trying to get artificial deadlines in the Cyprus negotiation; that has never worked in the past and seems no more likely to work now. It has arguments against using too much of that stock in trade of the frustrated international negotiator’s talk of last chances. But it does argue powerfully in favor of the EU making a renewed effort to negotiate Turkey’s accession in good faith and with the will to get to the end of the road. Of course that will not happen for Cyprus reasons alone; but Cyprus is one among other very good reasons why it ought to happen.

* Lord David Hannay was the British special representative for Cyprus. This piece was abridged from a speech he made at a conference held by Salzburg Global Seminar on May 11.

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