Although the Organizers have been generous to me, I am wondering how much and what can be said about the Cyprus problem in just 20’.
Definitely not enough, that would explain the problem in its entirety. Anyway, I will begin by giving an outline of the problem in a rather brief manner and by presenting basic facts that had an impact on its evolution. Following that, I will try to explain the state of play, where we are today, what we are trying to achieve and why we have not, regrettably, yet succeeded. Finally, I will touch upon the way forward after the last failed efforts in Crans Montana and try to draw some conclusions.
- THE CYPRUS PROBLEM
The situation prevailing in Cyprus is an anomaly in the new world order.
Why am I saying this? Just listen to the following:
Cyprus is a member of the United Nations; at the same time its independence, territorial integrity and security, is – by virtue of its own Constitution – guaranteed by 3 other countries – the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece;
Cyprus is also a member-state of the European Union; still, it hosts on its territory two sovereign military bases under the control of the United Kingdom;
Finally, more than one third of Cyprus’ territory is since 1974 under ongoing Turkish military occupation in flagrant violation of international law, including the UN Charter.
(a) The roots of the Conflict
It is important first to attempt to understand what happened in the past, in order to be able to grasp the complexities of the current situation and today.
Owing to its strategic position, Cyprus was throughout its history conquered by some of the most powerful nations.
Britain was the last power to occupy Cyprus back in 1878, taking over the island from the Ottoman Empire.
It should be noted, however that from the antiquity Cyprus had been Greek in population and culture, with a Turkish minority introduced during the Ottoman period in 16th century.
What came to be known later as the Cyprus Problem, appeared in the early post Second World War years, during the de-colonization wave and the universal demand for self-determination.
In the case of Cyprus, the natural goal of self-determination was the Union with Greece, because the majority of its people were Greek-Cypriots.
That was the reason, that Greece took up the issue of self-determination in Cyprus at the United Nations in 1954;
But for Britain, Cyprus was a Mediterranean stronghold, serving its naval interests and had not the slightest intention of relinquishing.
Faced with an open assertion of indefinite colonial rule, the national cause of Cyprus was inevitably driven to arms.
In 1955, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters – EOKA – waged a guerilla war for Enosis – Union with Greece.
That was the moment that Britain, following the “divide and conquer” tactics, used the Turkish presence on the island, to prevent the Greek-Cypriots pursuing their goal.
This forced the Greek-Cypriots to accept a neutered independence guaranteed, ironically, by Britain and the two motherlands, Turkey and Greece;
You might ask, of course, why am I saying neutered independence!
Facts speak, again, for themselves:
An independence with stationing troops from Greece and Turkey and imposing two sovereign bases for Britain; and with a Constitution, categorizing, or otherwise segregating citizens as Greeks or Turks and containing other divisive elements.
A Constitution that was designed and imposed on Cypriots, in order to serve more diplomatic imperatives rather than the people of Cyprus; let alone the principles of democracy and justice.
Soon after its adoption, the Constitution proved unworkable and led in 1963 to the first intercommunal conflict – between the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish-Cypriots.
Following that, the 1974 coup d’état by the Greek military junta was the long-awaited pretext by Turkey to invade Cyprus, occupying 37 % of the territory, with the catastrophe that shapes Cyprus to this day.
(b) The state of play
Since then, several rounds of negotiations conducted under the UN auspices, failed because of Turkey’s insistence to maintain Cyprus under its own control and custody.
It is important, however, to point out four major events that have significantly defined the efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem:
- The 1977-79 High Level Agreements between the two Communities, which in essence is the acceptance of the notion of establishing a bizonal, bicommunal federation, thus transforming the Republic of Cyprus from a unitary state to a federal one.
- The unilateral declaration of independence of the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” in 1983, which was condemned by the international community and declared legally invalid by the UN Security Council resolution 541/83.
Let me add, that until today, only Turkey has recognized the illegal entity in the occupied part of Cyprus.
- The rejection of the so-called Annan Plan by the Greek-Cypriots in a referendum that was held on April 24, 2004, only a week before the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
The Turkish-Cypriots voted in favor, but I would like to recall how Erdogan described the Annan Plan:
“…greatest victory of Turkish diplomacy since the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, as it was addressing the strategic interests than the legitimate concerns of the Cypriot people”.
- It is also interesting to know, that efforts by the United States and the United Kingdom to endorse the Annan Plan by the Security Council were vetoed by Russia.
- The Accession of Cyprus to the European Union on 1st May 2004 which put the Cyprus problem in a different context.
- On one hand, it is because of the adherence of the European Union to international law and human rights, having in mind that in the past, there was no possibility even raising these principles.
- On the other hand, the position of Cyprus vis-à-vis Turkey was strengthened substantially, since as a member could veto Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
This enormous potential was the hidden stake of all frantic diplomacy of the past years which ended with the Annan Plan.
Following the rejection of the Annan Plan, and after our insistence, the United Nations affirmed that the latest round of talks that began in 2015 and ended last year with the Crans Montana Conference, is “Cypriot owned”.
In other words, the two Communities have the ownership of the negotiations, with no third-party’s interference or mediation and with the United Nations playing the role of a facilitator.
(c) The way forward
The Crans Montana Conference in July 2017 was concluded without an agreement due to Turkey’s intransigent position on the thorny issue of security and guarantees.
More specifically, Turkey refused to commit to the unequivocal termination of guarantees and sought the continuation of the right of intervention in Cyprus.
In addition, Turkey was not ready to commit to the full withdrawal a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the agreement. In other words, Turkey sought to be both judge and jury. And secondly Turkey was not ready to commit to the full withdrawal of its troops from Cyprus and sought to ensure its military presence in perpetuity.
No contemporary state in the world could have accepted the perpetuation of such anachronistic conditions.
Since then, the process is at standstill. We focus our efforts on how to resume the negotiating process, building upon the accumulated acquis of the process so far and based on the framework set by the Secretary General of the United Nations;
Namely the parameters of territory, political equality, property, equivalent treatment, security and guarantees
The whole process has been complicated further with the Turkish elections and the confusing signals coming from Ankara; such as
- the provocative acts in our EEZ,
- the questioning of the basis of the talks and even
- the references to Plan B
However, we have to admit that there is no other alternative, but to continue the negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem and put an end to the Turkish occupation;
A solution that
- safeguards the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and
- takes into consideration the security concerns of the people of Cyprus;
A solution that also
- safeguards the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all its citizens, fully in line with the European and the international law;
- and which ensures that reunited Cyprus will be, in the words of the Secretary General of the United Nations, a normal state.
The journalist Tim Marshall underlines in his book “Prisoners of Geography”, that in order to understand events, you need to understand people, ideas and movements.
But if you don’t know geography, you will never have the full picture.
This is also true in the case of Cyprus which lies less than 50 miles from Turkey’s coast.
Geography, however, is just one aspect of foreign relations which extend also to political, economic, military and energy considerations, to name a few.
We are not living in the Fifties or Sixties.
Cyprus is, today, a modern democracy and a full member of the European Union.
It is an actor of stability and cooperation in the volatile region of Eastern Mediterranean;
a reliable and predictable partner of the US and Israel;
a close friend of its Arab neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.
with a credible foreign policy;
and a great energy potential;
Last but not least, Cyprus is a country with a dynamic overseas Community – of which we are very proud
And we also have the continuous solidarity and full support of Greece and the Greek people – this is the power of Hellenism!
These are important assets that can be instrumental in re-unifying our island.
But we need to have clear goals and we must to be united.
**** Ambassador Kornelios Korneliou’s address at the Cypriot Young Professionals and NEPOMAK USA event “Cyprus 44 Years Later – A Retrospective Look and Call to Action, Tuesday, June 5, 2018.