Another Christmas, Different Conditions
The Cyprus problem, as we have been talking about, started on a cold Christmas day, precisely on Dec. 21, 1963, with Greek Cypriot hordes attacking Turkish Cypriots with the intention of annihilating them all within 24 hours. This sad event, a product of the failed Akritas plan signed by “Commander Diegenis,” as was reported by the Greek Cypriot media a while later, was the “Bloody Christmas.”
The 1963 and consequent attacks by the Greek Cypriot hordes failed to cleanse the island of the Turkish Cypriot element. Frustrated with pertinent failures, the colonels of Greece instigated on July 15, 1974 a coup to oust the Makarios government and achieve Enosis, annexation of the island to Greece. The coup triggered the Turkish intervention on July 20, 1974, which not only saved Turkish Cypriots, but brought a swift end to the coup administration on the Greek Cypriot side, as well as that of the colonels of Athens.
Now it is, again, Christmas time. Different winds are blowing on the island. It is as if the long-sought icebreaker might be finally found and the talks between the two sides that collapsed in July 2017 at the Crans Montana Swiss winter resort might be revived. An American diplomat, Jane Holl Lute, serving as the provisional special Cyprus advisor of the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has been involved in shuttle diplomacy efforts between Ankara, Athens, Nicosia… Her task is difficult. She will either come up within weeks – months of perhaps throw in the towel – whether there was a common ground on which a new round of talks might be constructed. Of course, apart from the so-called Guterres principles spelt out by the secretary-general in a futile effort at Crans Montana to save the talks, and a set of reference points to serve as the guideline in the new negotiations period, must be prepared should talks are to be resumed.
It is difficult to understand why there is optimism that talks might be resumed. Ankara believes Crans Montana talks demonstrated that Greek Cypriots were not interested in a compromise deal and share power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality – which also requires rotation of presidency and key administrative positions between the two communities. For the sake of “effective governance” the Greek Cypriot side has even stepped several steps back and now publicly declare their opposition to the Turkish Cypriot demand for effective participation in governance – that require yes vote for at least one Turkish Cypriot minister on key cabinet decisions and a separate Turkish Cypriot quorum in parliament on matters considered to be of importance for Turkish Cypriots.
Opportunists, including Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, dream that probably within months, if not by 2019 Christmas, it might be possible to fix the problem created in the Christmas of 1963 whether the Greek Cypriot side engages in goodwill in a serious negotiations process which ought to include a painful give-and-take phase. If the issues from power sharing to rotation of presidency, effective participation in governance, security arrangements and the future of the 1960 guarantee system – under which Turkey intervened and saved Turkish Cypriots in 1974, the two sides are far apart like white and black, it will be pessimistic to say a deal on Cyrus anytime soon cannot be in the cards unless the target of the talks is changed. If the two sides cannot establish a federation and the Greek Cypriots are unprepared to give back some power usurped from their partners kicked out of the partnership state in 1963, perhaps a confederal settlement or a two-states in the European Union or some other alternatives must be considered.
Anyhow, no one should remain in the scare of 1963 Bloody Christmas. Remembering the past should not turn into burying ourselves in past animosities. Yet, to build a healthy future, the past must be examined and similar disaster should be avoided with effective preemptive measures. If 1963-1974 genocidal Greek Cypriot attacks as well as the 1974 Turkish intervention on the island using its guarantor right are to be remembered, it is obvious that a more efficient security system is a necessity for Cyprus. Engaging in foreplay of new talks with “Zero troops, zero guarantees” obsession negates the possibility of any deal.
In any case, I wish a merry Christmas and a happy new year for everyone.