Kathimerini Greece Newsroom
By Nikos Kotzias*
Over the past 30 years, Turkey, and its friends in the society of nations, sought, and partially succeeded, in obscuring the importance of the Cyprus issue’s international dimension, that is the Turkish invasion and the illegal occupation of the island. The aim was to present the Cyprus issue as a one-dimensional, internal affair that exclusively concerns the relations and the rights of the two communities, Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots.
With this shift, Turkey has aimed to be seen as the protector of some Cypriots instead of a violator of international law. And it prioritized ensuring the complete equality of the Turkish-Cypriot community (officially back then making up 18% of the population) with the Greek-Cypriot one. Such “complete equality” is the definition of non-democracy. And, no one has thought of applying it to Turkey’s 18 million Kurds that make up 22% of its population.
I was, and remain, a proponent of the totality of Turkish Cypriots’ actual rights. What should have happened is a common front with the Turkish Cypriots living after 1974 under the Turkish boot. It’s a fact that democracy in a society of 200,000 people cannot function with the presence and control of 42,000 military personnel. The militaristic nature of the regime in occupied Cyprus was never highlighted enough.
In recent years, after developments in maritime zones and the discovery of natural gas in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, Turkey, with the help of a third country’s diplomats, sought to transform the Cyprus issue even further: to a problem of revenue sharing from the Republic of Cyprus’ maritime resources, posing as a co-beneficiary defending the equitable distribution of resources.
Fortunately, in the Cyprus talks in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in 2017, we placed the Cyprus issue on the right footing, as an international issue. The secretary-general of the United Nations accepted our main positions, based on the principles of international law and the UN Charter. Above all, the fundamental position that Cyprus must, at last, become a normal state. You cannot have a member-state of the European Union and the UN exist under guarantor powers. And neither should there be any occupation troops, or any other troops for that matter, without the agreement of the Republic of Cyprus. One cannot impose the structures, or the remnants, of residual colonialism. I also noted, and the UN accepted, the need to protect and promote the rights of Cyprus’ three minorities (Maronites, Latins and Armenians), especially their right to representation in institutions.
At Crans-Montana, for the first time we reversed a historical trend: that of each negotiation being worse than the previous one. For the first time, the results of those talks, as summarized by the UN secretary-general were better than those of previous talks. Many clueless people, who simply listen to some pro-Turkish actors and not the Greek or Cypriot governments, tried, maliciously, to blame the impasse at Crans-Montana on the Cypriot government, facilitating Turkish interests and tactics.
The truth, however, is that the Turkish delegation had abandoned the Geneva talks in 2017 after the first of two scheduled days and, on the expected second day, announced from Ankara that it “had more important things to deal with, such as Syria.” In Crans-Montana, while Turkey had agreed on abandoning the guarantees regime and withdrawing the army of occupation, as the UN secretary-general officially informed us, it finally backed off, gracelessly and insistently, under the pressure of the Grey Wolves.
I remind the skeptics that truth always finds a way to come to light. None other than Turkish, and some British, diplomats now declare that they do not want talks on Cyprus to continue, based on the Crans-Montana results. Just like they didn’t want to conclude negotiations on an appropriate compromise then, they now want to wiggle their way out of the position for a “normal state” and the “two abolitions” of the guarantor powers and the occupation army. Moreover, they are pressuring the Republic of Cyprus to make concessions to Turkey even before talks resume, in order, supposedly, for Turkey “to come to negotiations well-disposed.” But, of course, if Turkey is to get everything it is asking for before the negotiations, it will be well-disposed!
Under such pressures, Greek diplomacy appears strangely passive. It does not divulge Turkey’s aims to the international community. It does not respond to Ankara’s provocative demands, just as it doesn’t respond to a lot of other issues between Greece and Turkey.
A two-state confederation?
The question is, what is Turkey’s real aim when it speaks of two states in Cyprus? In my opinion, this is not something that Turkey wants, in any way. It has absolutely no desire for a “pure” Greek-Cypriot state in its underbelly. What it wants is to maintain control over the part of the island it illegally occupies and, through it, control the Republic of Cyprus’ defense and foreign policy, as well as its resources. And it can achieve this by promoting the two-state solution as desirable in order to end up with the ersatz compromise of a confederation, which could be presented, for appearances’ sake, as “a special kind of federation.” In other words, it desires an institutional monstrosity that will prevent Cyprus from ever becoming a normal state, as agreed in Crans-Montana.
I am afraid that those who denounced us for the positive results achieved in the summer of 2017, by adopting Turkish arguments or refusing to acknowledge our prior preparation and our negotiating tactic that resulted in a positive UN stance, are very ready to accept such a monstrosity. Even worse, some in Athens hope to be rid of the “burden” of the Cyprus issue in the same way that they thought they would be rid of the burden when, in the 1950s, the United Kingdom was encouraged to promote the division of Cyprus and imposed the criminal “guarantor powers” regime.
* Nikos Kotzias was Greece’s foreign minister from January 2015 to October 2018.