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December 30, 2012, Sunday

Is there hope for Cyprus?

A new round of negotiations regarding Cyprus is expected to begin in 2013. The hitherto negligible progress on the Cyprus issue makes it a brilliant example of failed negotiations. The first negotiations opened in Beirut in 1968. However, so far, no major settlement has been reached. So, after 50 years of failed negotiations, is there hope in the upcoming round?

The answer is simply “no.” A long list of reasons can be set out for this pessimistic outlook. For instance, EU membership killed the raison d'être of negotiations concerning the Greek Cypriots. With the entire island in their hands, why should the Greek Cypriot side be interested in a deal with Turkey? Even if the Turkish side were to accept a purely Greek Cypriot proposal without reservation, the deal would still be against the Greek Cypriots, as they would then be sharing with the Turks their globally recognized status. Nothing that the Turks have, like land, is more precious than the status the Greek Cypriots have, like EU membership. Nothing that can be gained from Turkey could compensate for any obligation on the part of the Greek Cypriots to share their globally recognized status.

Therefore, there must be a major power to persuade the Greek Cypriots to conduct effective negotiations. It could be the US, the EU or the UK. However, there is no reason for the UK to be a devoted peace broker, as the status quo on the island favors British military interest. The EU has virtually lost its leverage by extending membership to the Greek Cypriots. The US perspective has yet to be clarified.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) is a failed state. It lacks the basic qualifications and functions of simple statehood. Intentionally or unintentionally, Turkey has so far prevented the blossoming of the KKTC. Turkish strategy should now promote serious public reform on the island. During those reforms, the Turkish Embassy there should be less visible. With a monopolistic embassy, it is hardly possible to consolidate the statehood of the KKTC.

On the other hand, Turkey should develop a more realistic Cyprus paradigm. The links of the late Rauf Denktaş, founding president of the KKTC, with the Kemalist status quo in Turkey were a major obstacle to any peaceful agreement on the island. Denktaş, aligned with the Kemalist status quo in Ankara, prevented any initiative, but did succeed in creating a naïve reading of the Cyprus problem: Many in Turkey came to the conclusion that the purge of Denktaş would guarantee the solution of the Cyprus problem. That was wrong. The Cyprus problem has its own intrinsic obstacles, and some of them originate on the Greek side. The solution is not easy to identify, even with an ultra-liberal regime in the KKTC. One should not forget that Cyprus is not a field of ideological competition, but the competing field of Turkish and Greek nationalism.

Turkey should insist on a new round of negotiations in 2013. Even if the new round fails, Turkey should keep the door of negotiations open. The perfect solution model is an EU model. However, after almost 50 years of failed negotiations, it is time for Turkey to deploy alternative strategies. While keeping the door of negotiations open, Turkey should try for the easing of the isolation of the Turkish community. (By the way, it should be noted that it is the EU that is responsible for this unfair isolation of people, including women and children.) Observing the unwillingness of the EU to rectify this, Turkey is morally correct to be looking for alternative solutions to the Cyprus problem. Things could change in the region: The new regime in Syria might espouse a different Cyprus policy. Similar developments could be expected also in Egypt and Pakistan. I am not suggesting here that Turkey should seek the recognition of the KKTC. Turkey's priority should be the easing of the negative impact of isolation on the island's Turkish community.

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