Saturday, 15 May 2021

Nikos Kotzias: what Turkey wants in Cyprus

I’ve translated into English an extract from a post by former Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias on the current state of Cyprus talks, following the fiasco in Geneva, in which he identifies exactly what Turkey is after in any settlement.

I find what he says convincing and, indeed, it fits into the argument that many have been making that, since 1964, Turkey’s Cyprus policy has not been to achieve a clean partition of the island, in which two entirely separate and independent sovereign states are created, but to establish a confederation in which the Turkish Cypriots are independent in the north while retaining a controlling influence in the affairs of the entire island through their over-representation and veto power at the federal level.

While formal partition is an option for Turkey, it does not resolve its Cyprus problem, which is that partition would still result in a Greek sovereign entity existing next to its soft underbelly and further implicate Greece in Cyprus – particularly from a defence perspective – fuelling Turkey’s fear of being surrounded by Greek islands. 

It’s also worth pointing out that this kind of partition doesn’t suit the UK, whose sovereign military bases on the island in such a scenario would become untenable. 
What does Turkey want in Cyprus? Turkey wants to control Cyprus to the largest possible extent. If it could control Cyprus in its entirety, something it can’t do and knows it can’t do, it would be happy. The second best outcome for Turkey would be for Cyprus to become a confederation, even if such a result is called a ‘federation’. With such a de facto confederation, Turkey aims to maintain its control of Cypriot territory currently under its sway, to legalise its illegal presence and that of the settlers. At the same time, Turkey aims at a form of confederation – even if it’s labelled a ‘federation’ – that will allow it through the Turkish Cypriot constituent state to control the core structures of the Republic of Cyprus, such as the central bank, financial policy, the supreme court, foreign and European policies, defence and security matters. Essentially, Cyprus would cease to be an independent, sovereign state.

What Turkey doesn’t want: Turkey doesn’t want a Republic of Cyprus that finds itself beyond its control, which will be an independent, coequal state at the international and European level. Nor does it want a partitioned Cyprus that would give Greece, forming a common defence area with Cyprus, a position from which to threaten Turkey’s soft underbelly.