Monday, 9 September 2013
Reflections on a twitter exchange with Ozdil Nami
Nami was last week appointed ‘foreign minister’ in the coalition ‘government’ in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus. He is an ‘MP’ with the leftist Republican Turkish Party and was a senior aide to former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat.
My exchange with Nami began when I was irked by his assertion that awarding the Olympic Games to Turkey in 2020 would ‘send a strong message of peace and reconciliation to this war-torn part of the world’.
I suggested to Nami that if Turkey was interested in being seen as a paragon of peace and reconciliation, then perhaps it should end its occupation of Cyprus. Nami retorted that Greek Cypriots could have ended the presence of Turkish troops on the island in 2004 by accepting the Annan plan. There then followed an exchange on the merits of the Annan plan with Nami suggesting if the plan was as bad as I was making out then why would the current president of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades, and the then government of Greece have supported it? I argued they did this not because of the intrinsic merits of the plan, but because they feared rejection of it might lead the way to an upgrading of the pseudo-state in occupied Cyprus and the international isolation of the Republic of Cyprus. I further pointed out to Nami that it would be a mistake for the Turkish side to assume, in forthcoming negotiations on a Cyprus settlement, that because Anastasiades had backed the Annan plan in 2004 he would be amenable to a similar plan now. (I have discussed Anastasiades’ motivations for saying ‘Yes’ to the Annan plan in 2004 and why these no longer exist in 2013 in more detail here).
The most interesting part of the exchange for me was when I asked Nami – regarded as a moderate and progressive in the Turkish Cypriot community – whether he supported the notion that in a federal Cyprus, Cypriots would be able to live, work and own property in any part of the island, i.e. in both the Greek and Turkish components of the putative federal state. I asked him this question because the Turkish Cypriots’ strict interpretation of the bizonal element of a federal Cyprus – an interpretation that was reflected in the Annan plan – would seem to preclude certain residential, employment and ownership freedoms to Greek Cypriots. The Turkish side has insisted – and the Annan plan confirmed this – that quotas and restrictions be applied to Greek Cypriots wishing to settle, work and own property in that part of Cyprus to be run by the Turkish Cypriot constituent state. I wondered, therefore, if Nami would recognise that Turkish Cypriot insistence on a rigid form of bizonality – which smacks of ethnic separation, or apartheid – was intolerable to modern political thinking and contemporary notions of human rights and was one of the main reasons why Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan.
In fact, Nami did say he agreed with my proposition that in a federal Cyprus, Cypriots should be able to live, work and own property anywhere on the island. This somewhat took me aback since I don’t see how this affirmation of fundamental freedoms can be reconciled to bizonality, because for bizonality to work in the way Turkish Cypriots want, they must, at all times, be numerically superior and own the majority of property in their constituent state; a scenario that is impossible to guarantee if human rights regarding settlement, employment and ownership of property are applied.