The Cyprus Question: Can there be a breakthrough in 2006?
by Andreas Theophanous, Professor of Political Economy and Director General of the Center
Whether during 2006 there will be a breakthrough on the Cyprus problem is an important question which preoccupies Cypriots as well as key international players. In principle, both sides declare their commitment and willingness to work in a way so as to achieve a solution as soon as possible. At the same time key external players have also indicated that they are willing to constructively engage in this effort.
The question raised is whether indeed the positions of the two sides are such that it is reasonable to expect developments facilitating the solution on the Cyprus problem in the coming months. Despite the fact that Turkey, at least in the short run, has been taken off the hook by the process leading to the referenda and their outcomes, it still remains an occupying power in Cyprus. No doubt Ankara is still trying to blame the Cyprus government for the stalemate. The task of Turkey is made easier by an inadequate communications’ campaign on the part of the Cyprus government.
In substance, it is difficult for a breakthrough to occur in 2006, simply because there is a great gap in the positions of two sides. Naturally, the Greek Cypriots expect a plan different in philosophy than the Annan plan, which after all they overwhelmingly rejected. On the other hand, the Turkish side would accept only marginal changes to the Annan Plan. Turkey has not yet indicated any readiness to move forward with a substantial change in its Cyprus policy. Ankara still maintains a policy aiming at the legitimization of its strategic control over Cyprus. This is hardly surprising given that the USA and to some extent the EU have been essentially tolerant of Turkish policies over Cyprus.
Turkey is seeking to exchange its obligations to the EU that arise from the Ankara Protocol (in relation to the extension of the Customs Union with the ten new members of the Union) with further concessions from the Republic of Cyprus. At the same time, one of its major objectives is to politically upgrade the “TRNC”, and also end what it calls the “economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”. Ankara seeks to promote these “proposals” as if they constituted a new initiative.
The Cyprus government has made it clear that Turkey’s obligations towards the EU, cannot be accepted as part of a re-used set of “proposals” and above all they should not be perceived as potential concessions in the context of the Cyprus question. Nonetheless, the Cyprus government continues its own inclusive policy for the Turkish Cypriots. The recent provision of electricity and the cooperation in combating avian flu are a strong case in point. It should be stressed that if the anomaly in Cyprus in relation to Turkish occupation is terminated, there would be an immediate extension of benefits for Turkish Cypriots. Moreover, the normalization that will ensue, would lead to a new state of affairs in which the Turkish Cypriots would accordingly share power, benefits and responsibilities.
At the end of the day, a major unanswered question remains: whether the EU would undertake a serious role in addressing the stalemate. Perhaps, at this time, the only move that could generate progress is an upgraded package of confidence building measures: Famagusta could be returned to the Republic of Cyprus in conjunction with more economic (and other) opportunities for the Turkish Cypriots. That in itself would create an economic boom which would entail substantial benefits for both sides. At the same time a new psychology would develop, which in its turn could lead to a new constructive climate that could form the basis for a new round of substantive and fruitful negotiations.
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