President Anastasiades rules out foreign guarantors of a reunified Cyprus, saying “we cannot continue to be the only case that needs third countries to guarantee it”. The president is in Geneva with a large team of negotiators to resume talks on the Cyprus problem.
“We are going to Geneva well prepared and determined, always with the will and desire for a solution to the Cyprus problem as a given on the basis of principles and values that will allow us to build a modern European state, a state that will respect the concerns of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, that will more generally respect its citizens,” he said.
The president hopes for good will from Turkey, he adds.
“It is the first time since the invasion and afterwards that the Republic of Cyprus will be conversing with Turkey, especially with regard to the important issues of security and troops.”
If Turkish President Erdogan doesn’t go to the conference on Cyprus on January 12th, Turkey will be represented by anyone who has the will for a solution, he said.
“The dialogue is Cypriot owned. The members of the Security Council will be in the area; the EU will be present; consultations will be taking place by various people, not in the form of arbitration, but so that they will be moving in the right direction,” said Anastasiades.
Turkey will play hardball on its guarantees over Cyprus, said political analyst Robert Ellis. Erdogan needs to reinforce his shaken sense of self-importance and is determined to make Turkey the deciding factor in Cyprus. He has his hands more than full with the fallout from Syria, including the stalled operation in the Jarablus pocket. This means he is less likely to compromise and be more inclined to take a hard line on Cyprus to bolster his standing in Turkey, said the analyst.
Russia, France, China, Turkey, the UK, the EU, Greece and the US are set to clash over Cyprus’ sovereignty guarantees on January 12th. The powers are members of either NATO or the UN Security Council which are invited to the conference on Cyprus in Geneva.
Cyprus was a pawn in the wider regional struggle between Greece and Turkey during the first half of the 20th Century. Domestic tensions between the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots tracked the wider regional rivalry. The political and military pull-and-push gave the new nation little chance to find its feet. In-fighting between the local communities sparked up in the wildfire tensions. In 1974, Greece attempted a coup in Cyprus, Turkey countered with an invasion and permanent occupation. The two NATO powers almost went into an all-out war against each other. The US and UK stepped in to stop the fighting and there has been a truce ever since. Not peace. Just a truce that has held for 43 years.
It’s a state of affairs that slows the island’s development. Turkey is in breach of the limited guarantor rights, because it never pulled its troops out. It also interfered in local politics by supporting an illegitimate Turkish-Cypriot ‘statelet’. While the Turkish Cypriots run their own community affairs, their administration is not recognised. Only Turkey recognises the TRNC as a ‘country’, while enforcing a segregation of the two communities.
Most recently, Greece and Turkey started sabre rattling over the modern borders laid out by another treaty. The Lausanne Treaty set out Turkey’s modern borders after World War One. In November, Turkish President Erdogan signaled that he wasn’t satisfied with them. An alarmed and irritated Greek Foreign Minister Kotzias went on alert.
On January 12th, Greece and Turkey are likely to go head-to-head again over Cyprus. The UK is eyeing its post-Brexit position in the world and trying to find its identity. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed full support for a viable solution in Cyprus. But one wonders which side the UK would choose in the case of an open disagreement during the conference. Would it choose the EU’s agenda of reunification and independence as a member state? Or would the UK use its power in Cyprus as leverage for its upcoming Brexit negotiations?
The UN Security Council members are another complication. China, Russia and France have long supported the end of the Turkish occupation. They want a reunification solution as negotiated directly by the Cypriot leaders. The picture has changed between Russia and Turkey though. The war in Syria has drawn the Turks and Russians back into their alliance. They are now formal guarantors of the latest ceasefire in Syria. What this means for Cyprus is uncertain. It could mean that Russia can pressure Turkey to drop its guarantee in favour of a local reunification solution. Equally, it could mean that Turkey has leverage over Russia as the two countries have to work together on a regional basis.
France has a strong interest in ending the war in Syria as it has been the target of several ISIS terrorist attacks. France is therefore depending on Russia and Turkey to keep the lid on the brutal violence that exploded in the Syrian civil war. Cyprus and the Turkish occupation could take second place to this immediate threat.
China is likely the only UN Security Council member which has a clear loyalty to a peace settlement in Cyprus. It is uninvolved in Eastern Mediterranean conflicts and a long-term ally of Cyprus. Yet its influence over Turkey is another matter.
Have President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci bitten off more than they can chew? The conference on the 12th is likely to be a volatile mix of world powers determined to get their own way. The threat is that Cyprus might return to its status as a pawn on the geo-political chess board instead of a modern EU state with its own identity and future.