Saturday, 26 July 2008

New Cyprus talks set for September

President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed yesterday to start on 3 September full-fledged negotiations aimed at a 'solution' to the Cyprus problem. Unlike the 2004 process, this time round there won't be any strict timetables or a UN 'referee' to impose a plan that he believes satisfactory regardless of the objections of the interested parties and which, in 2004, under US and particularly UK influence, resulted in the disgraceful Annan plan.

Christofias had said he would only begin full-fledged negotiations with Talat if there were a sufficient coalescence of views by the two sides on the basis of a Cyprus solution. Specifically, Christofias wanted the Turks to commit to the idea that the Republic of Cyprus would be transformed into a bizonal, bicommunal federation with one citizenship, sovereignty and international personality.

Yet, despite some vague hints by Talat that he accepted Christofias' terms, the truth is that the Turks have not come round to Christofias' way of thinking and, as was made clear last Saturday by Turk PM Recip Tayip Erdogan, during events in occupied Nicosia to commemorate the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Turks expect a Cyprus solution to be based on 'two equal states and an equal partnership based on the realities in the island'; a 'new partnership in which Turkish Cypriots participate equally and as a founder state.'

(Christofias has fudged the issue by claiming that when the Turks talk about having their own state, this will mean their own politeia and not their own kratos).

The other criterion Christofias set before he would agree to full-fledged negotiations with Talat was that sufficient progress should have been made in the technical committees and working groups established in March to look at all aspects of the Cyprus problem, from the significant issues of territory, constitution, property, settlers and so on, to the less controversial issues concerning environment, crime, cultural heritage and so on.

Again, here, while there has been some agreement on the less controversial issues, there has been no progress on the significant issues and even on the less controversial issues, there has been no progress on those which might contribute to meaningful reunification of the island; for example, on opening more crossing points between the free and occupied areas.

(It was expected that the opening of a crossing point at Limnitis in north-western Cyprus would be announced yesterday, but this was vetoed by the Turkish occupation army; while this report makes clear that the destruction of Greek cultural monuments in the occupied areas, despite this so-called peace process, continues unabated).

So why has Christofias agreed to new negotiations, especially when he understands that beginning full-fledged talks without sufficient preparation and agreement on the basic parameters of a solution will risk the process promptly collapsing and allow the Turks to claim that this was the last chance for reunifying the island and now other solutions, like that applied to Kosovo, should be considered?

Here are some suggestions as to what Christofias may have been thinking:

1. If Christofias stalled on agreeing to full-fledged negotiations he risked incurring the displeasure of the international community, which might then pursue recognition of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.'

2. Having successfully convinced the international community that he is committed to a Cyprus solution, Christofias is hoping that even if so far he has not been able to persuade the Turkish side to abandon its unacceptable positions, his credit with the relevant centres of power is sufficiently good as to persuade them to apply pressure on the Turks to be more flexible.

3. Christofias has accepted the argument that political uncertainty in Turkey, with the Kemalists and Islamists at loggerheads, could undermine Turkey's EU aspirations – Turkey's EU aspirations is the only reason Turkey is contemplating a Cyprus solution – and work against a Cyprus solution in the medium and long term. In Cyprus too, Turkish Cypriot nationalists and the increasing numbers of Turkish settlers are also exerting pressure on Talat – claiming he is being too conciliatory and abandoning the 'TRNC' – prompting Christofias to figure that Talat and pro-solution Turkish Cypriots might not be around much longer.

4. The alternative to full-fledged negotiations would be a continuation of the working groups and technical committees; but Christofias has accepted the argument that there is a limit to what advisers and civil servants can agree and that the significant issues can only be settled by the leaders of the two communities and, when it comes to issues to do with security and guarantees, by Nicosia, Athens and Ankara.


Hermes said... light at the end of the tunnel?

I watched El Greco last night. Terrible script. Really bad. A pity as a lot of money was spent.

john akritas said...

I'm not optimistic; though I don't anticipate the talks collapsing. Rather, my view is that Christofias is so committed to a 'solution' and is by nature a conciliator that we will end up with a plan not dissimilar to Annan; version 6, if you like, which with the support of AKEL and DISY, the two largest parties on the island, will get passed a referendum. There is an argument that even an Annan 6 would be better than the status quo and the gradual recognition of the 'TRNC'. Get Turkey off the island, and then whittle away at the Turkish Cypriots in the EU, the argument goes.

El Greco is certainly a disappointment. It could have been much better.

Anonymous said...

Here's what a Turkish newspaper has written (with the help of a Reuters feed):

Notice how it doesn't mentioned the 40,000 Turkish occupying soldiers nor does it mention the thousands of illegal Turkish settlers from the mainland.

I have a bad feeling about this process ...


Hermes said...

There will be a coup in Turkey in the next 3 months. That will also make things more difficult. The only solution is violence but we are not up to it.

I went for a drink at my local Cypriot club last night and they have replaced the portrait of Papadopoulos with Christofias. Obviously, Makarios remains pride of place. Disapointing really.

john akritas said...

I wouldn't hold your breath in expectation of facts or rationality from the Turks when it comes to Cyprus – or anything else for that matter.

Christofias' – and his (left-wing) party's – engrained philosophy has been that if left to themselves, free of external pressures and interference – Cypriots, Greek and Turkish – can find a modus vivendi. This assumes many things, particularly that the Turk minority wants a united Cyprus, free of Turkey's heavy hand, and that they see Greek Cypriots as their compatriots and not their sworn enemies. Christofias has also put a lot of faith in the ability of the international community – specifically the EU, the UK and the USA – to persuade Ankara to alter its Cyprus policies. My feeling is that when deadlocks appear in the negotiations, as they surely will, the EU, US and UK won't put pressure on Ankara, but on Cyprus – which is why, I reckon, we will end up with a rehashed Annan plan.

Turkish turmoil is a big factor. A coup could even be provoked by concessions on Cyprus – apparently the Ergenekon conspirators were plotting one in 2004 because they thought the Annan plan was unacceptable. Maybe Christofias is thinking that we need to get a solution before things go completely belly-up in West Mongolia. Papadopoulos is a marginal figure, now. He and his party – DIKO – have come out against going to the talks at this stage, saying there is not enough common ground. Downer comes to town in the next couple of days; our side is worried that he's a loud mouth on an ego trip too close to the Americans.

Also, Eleftherotypia had some articles on Castoriadis yesterday. In case you missed it:

Hermes said...

Christofias is thinking "let's get in before the coup takes place" but this assumes that a Turkey after a coup will not seek to roll back any changes to the supposed changes that will take place. Personally, I find Christofias's assumptions optimistic; unfortunately, this is something which has afflicted the Left for the last 30 years.

Thanks for the Castoriadis link. Last week was also the 10 year anniversary of the death of the almost equally original thinker Panagiotis Kondylis who conducted work in the vein of Thucydides, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Clausewitz, Marx and Schmitt. Here is a link:

john akritas said...

Yes, those on our side who want talks now are thinking let's get some sort of 'solution' before Turkey descends into political crisis and stays in Cyprus for good. Whether the Kemalists or the Islamists are in power, a Turk is a Turk and I doubt very much whether they'll properly honour any agreement they sign. When have the Turks ever honoured a treaty they've signed? A Turk's signature is not worth the paper it's written on.

Kondylis is very interesting, right up my street. I'll take the plunge into some of his stuff in Greek I've found on the net, since he's not been translated into English.

Hermes said...

Yes, he is. I have emailed something to your email address on Kondylis in English.

Hermes said...

Here are some more Kondylis resources:

john akritas said...

Very interesting and useful.