Addressing the Cyprus Federation of America’s 2013 Testimonial Dinner in September, Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades said, “The re-launching of the negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations Secretary-General in the framework of his Good Offices Mission, aiming at a fair, viable and mutually acceptable settlement to the Cyprus question based on the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the principles upon which the EU [European Union] operates, remains our first priority.”
The Anastasiades statement sums up a modest position and a reasonable expectation if there is to be a “fair, viable and mutually acceptable settlement of the Cyprus question.” What is implied in the president’s statement, is that whatever final form this settlement takes it will respect and reflect “the principles upon which the EU operates,” in other words democracy, or rule of the majority with all the civil and human rights protections accruing to minorities.
In order to reach the point of a viable settlement, issues on a number of levels need to be defined, understood and addressed directly and honestly by the leadership of the Cypriot Republic, with the support of the Greek government, Helladic and Diasporic Hellenism.
These issues include, the illegitimacy of the Turkish occupation, democratic norms and human rights, the integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, the newly-discovered offshore energy fields in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s destabilizing policies, the concerns and role of the European Union and of the United States.
Let us start from the last issue and work our way back to the first, or to put it in (literary) Greek, to hysteron proteron: it is an open secret that a certain faction within the Obama Administration has been pushing for a solution to the Cyprus problem that will be “acceptable to both sides.” This envisions the effective end of the Republic of Cyprus, member of the European Union and recognized by virtually all of the world’s nations save Islamofascist Turkey, and the imposition of a regime based on the labyrinthine Annan Plan. The latter was (rightfully) rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Cypriot people in 2004; they had sensed its profoundly anti-democratic intention, indeed that its objective was to give Turkey control over the island.
Today there are those in Washington that are promoting the new Annan Plan-by-Stealth This time they have baited it by proposing that control over Ammochostos (Famagusta) be transferred from the Turkish occupation forces to the United Nations, quietly offering in exchange recognition of the illegal Tymvos Airport in the occupied areas. If the usual Greek-Turkish dealings repeat themselves, the Turks will hold out for their position, i.e. the legalization of Tymvos, and then refuse any concession. They will have gained the first step in the legitimation of their occupation regime.
Yet contrary to past experience, and the present existing Turkish influence-peddling lobby, the situation of Washington is very different than it has been for the last almost three decades. A major part of the policy-making apparatus in that city questions the motives and many of the actions of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose grandiose neo-Ottoman vision has resulted in moves that are inimical to US interests, geopolitically destabilizing and positively hostile to Israel.
This month’s Weekly Standard magazine hosts an article by Lee Smith, one of its lead editors, titled “Ankara Alienates Everyone,” which provides a kind of catalogue of issues that have arisen between Washington and Erdogan, many of which have found their way to the press. Smith cites a recent article in the Wall Street Journal in which MIT (Turkish intelligence) chief Hakan Fidan is said to be supporting al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
Another article, this one by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “showed Fidan to be playing for the other side” by passing information to Iran about ten agents working for Israel in that country. This action, has not been formally confirmed by the Israeli government but ex-Mossad chief Danny Yatom accepts the story it true. Yatom said that betraying Israeli agents “brings the Turkish intelligence organization to a position where I assume no one will ever trust it again.” This breakdown of credibility is increasingly characterizing the entire Turkish regime.
Besides views that are critical of Turkey, there are those that are developing that not only are critical but take the next step, i.e. to propose an alternate way of looking at stability in the eastern Mediterranean. In two very serious articles published recently, “Will U.S. Choose the Right Side in the Eastern Mediterranean?” (July) and “Mediterranean Gas Find: A Chance for U.S. to Break with Turkey” (August), former Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy Seth Cropsey of the Hudson Institute, one of Washington’s oldest think tanks, argues that a new order is emerging.
According to Cropsey, three major events have taken place that are splintering the region’s security framework, a) the redrawing of the regions hydrocarbon map, as a result of the discovery of substantial deposits in Israel and Cyprus; b) Turkey’s adoption of a “hostile” neo-Ottoman ideology; and, c) “Arab Spring.”
As this shift is taking place, Greece and Cyprus, coordinating with Israel, are the states that have remained friendly with the West. Cropsey remarks that “when volatility is on the rise, predictability becomes especially prized.” This is the main asset with which Cyprus should enter any negotiations.
Indeed Cyprus, with Greece and in cooperation with Israel, is increasingly seen as a factor of predictability and stability. A conference held a fortnight ago at the Hudson Institute titled “Power Shifts in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Emerging Strategic Relationship of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus” and supported by the American Hellenic Institute, developed this theme. Thus the Cypriot negotiators need to bear in mind that whatever solution or settlement they may (or may not) agree to, it must include the elements for structural stability and serve this new strategic relationship — this will provide a strategic dividend.
This new strategic relationship clearly has the backing of some serious Washington players and, if properly communicated and explained, is bound to gain the support of key European Union members. In fact, Greece will have the presidency of the EU as of January 2014, and it will have the opportunity to approach its fellow members — Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras understands the role he will be called to play.
Communication with fellow EU members can begin with Germany, whose newly reelected Chancellor Angela Merkel is aware about much of the issue; on a visit to Cyprus in 2011 Merkel stated the Cyprus government “really proved their willingness to compromise, but unfortunately there hasn’t been any response [from the Turkish side] so far;” on a personal note she remarked that “[w]e in Germany, and of course I personally, understand what the division of a country means.”
Cypriot negotiators must keep in mind that there is developing support and their position is becoming stronger in the United States, the EU and they enjoy regional support from Israel, Egypt and potentially from Russia; they must thus set very clear targets as to what to achieve in negotiations with Turkey; the “Turkish Cypriots” simply are an instrument of Ankara, thus the substantive thrust of the negotiations should be aimed there.
An early, main target for the Cypriot negotiators should be the removal of the occupation forces, a goal that will meet the approval both of those in Washington who no longer trust Turkey, and of the Israelis, who are not likely to feel secure with the presence of a neo-Ottoman Muslim military presence pointed at their country, as was told to this writer.
The Cypriot and Greek governments should be very careful not to provide legitimacy in any form to the occupation regime, and should strive to correct steps that may have created such a perception. In addition, Cypriot negotiators should reject any idea of “timetables,” which can serve as a negotiating instrument (much as in an Oriental bazaar) to force decisions that have not been adequately evaluated.
On the other hand Turkish Cypriots, as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, enjoy the rights and responsibilities accruing under a democratic order, once the unity of the republic has been restored. Indeed, as Cyprus develops its energy wealth, all Cypriots may enjoy its fruits.
Aristide D. Caratzas, a trained historian, is an academic publisher and international policy consultant based in Athens, Nicosia and New York.