Cyprus Moves Toward Power-Sharing

Nicos Anastasiades (L), President of the Republic of Cyprus, and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

Two years after talks to reunify the island divided since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish counterpart, Dervis Eroglu, met on Feb. 11 and laid out a blueprint that reportedly calls for Turkish-Cypriot leaders to share power, and creation of a bi-zonal federation.

Talks resumed after Anastasiades got hardliner Eroglu to agree on a document outlining the planned federation.

It’s a different approach from previous talks, one that Anastasiades insisted was necessary to prevent talks from dragging on without results like so many earlier rounds of negotiations over the last four decades.

“Today’s joint statement outlines the basic principles for a solution,” Anastasiades told reporters after the meeting. “What’s required now is the vision and determination of the leaders and the people of Cyprus to rebuild trust between them, but also to achieve a settlement that leaves no winners and losers.”

“The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner,” said Lisa Buttenheim, the resident United Nations envoy on the island, reading from a joint statement.

Flanked by the two leaders, the joint statement Buttenheim read out the statement that offered no details on how the federation would work or if, as former Cypriot President Demetris Christofias had agreed, a Turkish-Cypriot leader would become President of the country on a rotating basis.

It will be up to negotiators to hammer out the details but that could be a hard sell for Anastasiades as Cypriots in 2004 by 74 percent vote rejected a compromise plan that was backed by the Turks, who want to join the European Union.

Nicos Anastasiades (left), president of the internationally recognized Cypriot government, and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu (right) will now leave key negotiators to thrash out the minutae of any deal, the detail where talks typically flounder.

Anastasiades faces strong domestic pressure from critics who say the document contains the seeds of possible Turkish Cypriot statehood, which could unravel any peace accord and lead to a permanent partition.

He will face difficulties convincing everyone on his side, notably from the center-right Democratic Party. Its leader Nicholas Papadopoulos has already denounced the declaration as a bad deal that bodes ill for the course of negotiations and urged Anastasiades not to sign it. The Democratic Party is a partner in Anastasiades’ ruling coalition government.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a statement hailed the restart of talks and said the declaration laid “a solid foundation” for a peace accord.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country’s troubled EU membership bid is further hobbled by the Cyprus dispute, expressed hope the talks take “no backward steps.”

The main point of contention had been on the sovereignty status of a reunified Cyprus amid concerns among Greek Cypriots that  Eroglu was seeking recognition for his community as a separate state that would act as a buffer against domination by the majority Greek Cypriots. But Greek Cypriots argued that would plant the seeds of permanent partition in case any new arrangement collapsed.

Anastasiades said the draft declaration “safeguards the important principles and basis for a solution.”

Debt-laden Cyprus agreed last year to a bailout with its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund. A peace deal could reap a huge financial dividend.

After months of stalemate, things began moving following a visit to Cyprus by U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland.

On Feb. 7, Anastasiades spoke to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who according to Cypriot officials expressed “unwavering U.S. support for a just and lasting settlement.” They said Biden was encouraging “creative thinking” to boost the chances of success.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

After the meeting, the two sides released this statement:

The two leaders had their first meeting today under the auspices of the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices mission. The meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere and the two leaders have agreed to the following:

1. The status quo is unacceptable and its prolongation will have negative consequences for the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The leaders affirmed that a settlement would have a positive impact on the entire region, while first and foremost benefiting Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, respecting democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as each other’s distinct identity and integrity and ensuring their common future in a united Cyprus within the European Union.

2. The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner. All unresolved core issues will be on the table, and will be discussed interdependently. The leaders will aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible, and hold separate simultaneous referenda thereafter.

3. The settlement will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements. The united Cyprus, as a member of the United Nations and of the European Union, shall have a single international legal personality and a single sovereignty, which is defined as the sovereignty which is enjoyed by all member States of the United Nations under the UN Charter and which emanates equally from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

There will be a single united Cyprus citizenship, regulated by federal law. All citizens of the united Cyprus shall also be citizens of either the Greek-Cypriot constituent state or the Turkish-Cypriot constituent state. This status shall be internal and shall complement, and not substitute in any way, the united Cyprus citizenship.

The powers of the federal government, and like matters that are clearly incidental to its specified powers, will be assigned by the constitution. The Federal constitution will also provide for the residual powers to be exercised by the constituent states. The constituent states will exercise fully and irrevocably all their powers, free from encroachment by the federal government.

The federal laws will not encroach upon constituent state laws, within the constituent states’ area of competences, and the constituent states’ laws will not encroach upon the federal laws within the federal government’s competences. Any dispute in respect thereof will be adjudicated finally by the Federal Supreme Court. Neither side may claim authority or jurisdiction over the other.

4. The united Cyprus federation shall result from the settlement following the settlement’s approval by separate simultaneous referenda. The Federal constitution shall prescribe that the united Cyprus federation shall be composed of two constituent states of equal status.

The bi-zonal, bi-communal nature of the federation and the principles upon which the EU is founded will be safeguarded and respected throughout the island.  The Federal constitution shall be the supreme law of the land and will be binding on all the federation’s authorities and on the constituent states. Union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession or any other unilateral change to the state of affairs will be prohibited.

5. The negotiations are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

6. The appointed representatives are fully empowered to discuss any issue at any time and should enjoy parallel access to all stakeholders and interested parties in the process, as needed. The leaders of the two communities will meet as often as needed. They retain the ultimate decision making power. Only an agreement freely reached by the leaders may be put to separate simultaneous referenda. Any kind of arbitration is excluded.

7. The sides will seek to create a positive atmosphere to ensure the talks succeed. They commit to avoiding blame games or other negative public comments on the negotiations. They also commit to efforts to implement confidence building measures that will provide a dynamic impetus to the prospect for a united Cyprus.