Interview on the final status of CYPRUS
Seyfi TAŞHAN – Reşat ARIM / November 29th, 2011
Seyfi Taşhan : In January the United Nations Security General has invited the leaders of two communities in Cyprus. One of the leader is so called president of Cyprus . The other one is the head of the Turkish Community. They are supposed to discuss the future of Cyprus on the basis equal footing and political equality. So I believe there is something essentially wrong to conduct negotiations on such a funny way. The Turkish side had absolute goodwill to express themselves in the referendum during the Kofi Annan proposal in 2004. I would like to discuss the issue and prospect of negotiations process with Ambassador Reşat Arım. Ambassador Arım what are the chances and what are the prospects?
Reşat Arım : The Turkish side since 1974 they have their own authority. The Turkish side is not as badly dispersed on the island as before. Regions came together and there is certain territory defended by the Turkish military. They have created their own administration Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. They have their government . But they also have goodwill and they conduct inter communal turks. So it was first Mr. Talat who was president and he conduct with Mr. Papadopoulos and then Mr. Hristofyas. Several committees were created for discussions. I should they have obtained some progress on certain issues. But the main issues is the limitation of territory. In which the Turkish side lives.And the other one is relations between the Guarantor Powers. The priority of guarantors have been certainly discussed the conclusion should be with guarantor power Turkey, as far as Turkish side is concerned.
Seyfi Taşhan : I would like to pick up two points from what you said. The issue of the limitation of boundaries between two states and also properties. What are the advantages of isolating each other and to form a single state of Cyprus. A confederation or a type of union? What are the benefits, what they call identity of interest. At the moment I see no other identity of interest, except that they both are islanders. And they both want to live in the island, but that’s not enough to reach an understanding. What do you think are the chances or expectation of both sides from agreement?
Reşat Arım : I think that the Turkish side can only prepare for the final decision of the mainland Turkey. Of course for many years discussion are going on between two communities and I don’t think there is anything clear enough for the two parties. So it’s probably one of the last chances.
Seyfi Taşhan : What would the Greek Cypriots expect with the solution of Cyprus problem, on an equal basis? Is there any advantage for them?
Reşat Arım : For the Greek cypriots it would mean the end of pre eminence in government affairs. They have government in their own hands. Any agreement would be having the Turkish cypriots also in the government. They would lose their prerogatives.
Seyfi Taşhan : Then, we are starting from completely opposite positions. Turkish cypriots wish to reach agreement for several reasons. Because at the moment they have an unrecognised state except Turkey. They hope to be recognized even as part of Republic of Cyprus, and to join the EU and excpect certain benefits . Most important is the ambargoes that are being imposed on them. So that is a positive reason . But there is no positive reason for the Greek side. Without those positive reasons would the pressure of the Secretary General of the United Nations enough or who could provide anything to on the Greek side to make what they call sharing power in Cyprus with Turks?
Reşat Arım : As far as the Greek cypriots are concerned there is no benefit in power sharing agreement with the Turkish cypriots. On the other hand Turkish cypriots still try to find a formula where by as a government join to the EU with the Greek cypriots. In this way probably Greece’s enosis dream would be ended. Because in the EU it wouldn’t be possible to have enosis in the island.
Seyfi Taşhan : So let’s think about the attitude of two leaders. Mr. Hristofyas will go there probably try to gain time, make unacceptable demands on Turks. Particularly young people don’t want to reach an agreement with the Turks. So that’s the situation. I don’ t think he can do anything. But go on delaying tactic. Do you agree?
Reşat Arım : Of course Mr. Hristofyas will probably play with time and as you said Mr. Taşhan delaying tactics to gain time.Probably that would be deadlock. They can’t do much to change the situation. Turkish Cypriots admister a certain territory. As far as the Greek cypriots are concerned this is a loss for them. It would be a face saving for the Greek cypriots to come to an agreement.
Seyfi Taşhan: It would be a face saving. But in reality they wouldn’t want it. So if they wouldn’t want it such a formula would not be an operative. Anyway if we go to that point if there is a deadlock in January over the issues as you said land and governance. That may be a problem of the guarantee and the guarantee question cannot be resolved by cypriots alone so the secretary general may attempt to transfer to burden of negotiations to an international conference. Can you imagine an international conference composition? What could be the composition of an international conference?
Reşat ARIM: This is a very specific question. The interest of the four parties are there, the two main lands and two communities. The composition of the conference should not go beyond that very much.
Seyfi TAŞHAN: Who would they be?
Reşat ARIM: A major power like the United States.
Seyfi TAŞHAN: The United States did everything possible not to get involved in the Cyprus issue. If the United States was really involved, that could be helpful for a solution? But instead, Ambassador Holbrooke turned the problem over to the European Union which made a mess out of it. So, the United States and the European Union cannot be a valuable interlocutor in such a conference. Do you agree with that?
Reşat ARIM: Yes of course. You have a good point there. If we keep the United States and European Union out of this international conference; so we have to keep it to minimum, than to the four interested parties.
Seyfi Taşhan: Do you think that four parties like in 1959 – 1960 could reach an agreement? Or probably United Kingdom could come in as well.
Reşat Arım: It is very difficult to exclude the United Kingdom which is a guarantor power. They have a party to the treaty of guarantee.
Seyfi TAŞHAN: The European Union must act somehow Greek Cypriots will become the president of the community in the second half of 2012. Turkey threatened that it would stop relations during the Greek Cypriot presidency period. It may not cause much harm, this was done before in the past as well. The relation with European Union was frozen sometimes. What can European Union positively do with Greece and Greek Cypriots to contribute to the solution of the problem in Cyprus.
Reşat ARIM: There is only one thing to bring the question to zero point. These are restrictions, embargoes on the Turkish Cypriots. They can eliminate these things. They can create a tabula rasa for any negotiations between the four powers, the two communities and the two mainlands. Because only the mainlands can convince the communities to accept anything in the Cyprus state.
Seyfi TAŞHAN: When Makarios signed the London agreement. He did it rather with great reluctance. And two and half year after he had tried to change whole thing. Three years later he took an illegal action to terminate those treaties. Do you thing that Athens can be persuasive on Hristophias and the Greek community this time to reach an agreement with the Turks?
Reşat ARIM: I think the situation is a little bit different. Because when Makarios signed the agreements with reluctance, it was Cold War conditions. After so many years of negotiations Greece should have understood that pursuing Enosis policy, would not be something achievable. In any case the status quo in the island Turkish cypriots having their own territory, their own administration (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) can not be negated.
Seyfi Taşhan: I agree Enosis is finished. The leverage of Athens on Nicosia will be much less.
Reşat ARIM: Yes of course.
Seyfi Taşhan: Greek economy is in a terrible shape. Greek cypriots are in a better position even slightly better position. I believe at the moment Greece is not in a position to say anything about the resolution of the Cyprus question. Unlike Turkey. Turkey would be helpful. Therefore sharing the Eastern Mediterranean sharing of power in Cyprus. Cyprus is more depended on Turkey than Greece at the moment.
Reşat ARIM: We can also look at the larger picture. All the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. To have a major island like Cyprus disputed between the Turks and Greeks. This would not create a good example for all the other three thousand islands of Greece in the Mediterranean. Cyprus issue is a burning issue which shows the experiment of Greece trying to achieve Enosis on one of the island in Eastern Mediterranean was defeated; so this is a bad example for the foreign policy of Greece to go on for years without a solution. If I were in the place of the Greek government I would better close this chapter as soon as possible and finish with it.
SeyfiTaşhan: They may …. Without attempting to solve a problem that is the danger I think. Greece may prefer to stay aloof and saying that just they have been doing so far.
ReşatArım: It is a fact that Greece doesn’t have much leverage on the greek cypriots but they are a party to the treaties of Cyprus.
Seyfi Taşhan: therefore, I can say that Greece may become a party to the international conference. I don’t think they would wish to have positive or persuasive role during the discussions. Again we are coming to the other point of the international conference. The Conference may Prolong burning international issue. Can the British do something about it.
Reşat Arım: The british, the most they could do was to prepare the Annan plan. So they were not very successful on this. Probably they also would not.
Seyfi Taşhan: To conclude our little discussion we have to accept the continuation of the dispute in the island for the longer period. We have to face the impact of this situation on Turkey’s relations with the EU and we need to make the Turkish Republic in the island stronger and wealthier. I believe that is the only way for Turkey. Because it seems chronic disputes cannot be resolved quickly. Look at all chronic disputes in the world, nothing has been resolved particularly if they involved territory.