Undoubtedly, the stand of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Akinci, on the issue of Turkey’s invasion of Syria, but also with regards its invasion of Cyprus, is courageous. He said the truth about taboo issues in Turkey and the occupied territories as well, which is why Erdogan and the nationalists are furious. This is not the first time Akinci is at odds with Turkey. He has found himself in conflict several times in the past too, both as a party leader and as a leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. He did not hesitate to do so even when he had the Turkish Foreign Minister right in front of him in 2018. It was when Akinci refused to accept Cavusoglu’s position that the Turkish Cypriot community must move away from the agreed basis of the solution. Akinci’s stand shattered the perception cultivated in a targeted way within Greek Cypriot society that all Turkish Cypriots are the same.
Of course not all Turkish Cypriots are the same. They don’t think, they don’t act and they don’t all envision the same thing. There are those who want partition, there are those who want the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of Cyprus. Akinci expresses that section of the Turkish Cypriot community that wants and is seeking a solution for reunification. It is this section that fully realizes that without a solution the Turkish Cypriot community is in danger of extinction; that the future of the Turkish Cypriot community can only be guaranteed within an independent state in which they will be equal both as citizens and as a community and jointly responsible for its present and future.
Various forces and circles argue that it does not matter who the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community is. They say that Turkey decides everything. No matter how much good will the Turkish Cypriot leader may have, they claim, he can do nothing. Neither is this true. Of course, it matters who the Greek Cypriot community talks to. Its one thing for our interlocutor to be a politician seeking a solution for reunification, and its completely different for the Greek Cypriot side to have one interlocutor that is seeking partition.
Of course there are disagreements with Turkish Cypriot leaders who want a solution, but when a common understanding on the basis for a solution unites interlocutors, then there is the prospect of reaching an agreement.
The two communities are called upon to come to an understanding with each other primarily on issues in relation to the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, and if they succeed, a major step towards a solution is made. Precisely because in recent years the Greek Cypriot side has had Turkish Cypriot interlocutors seeking a solution, significant steps forward have been recorded. The presence of Talat and Akinci helped towards registering significant convergences on issues relating to the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. While many do not miss the opportunity to defame the convergences achieved, the reality is that they are an acquis on which we must count on to push forward, if and provided that negotiations continue from the point where they had remained at Crans Montana.
Undoubtedly, Turkey has a decisive say in the achievement of a solution. It is Turkey who decides on issues of enormous importance to the Greek Cypriot community. These are the issues concerning the international aspect of the Cyprus problem (guarantees, occupation troops, intervention rights, the settlers). Unquestionably Turkey also asserts a role in other issues related to the internal aspect (for example, the management and exploitation of natural gas, issues relating to citizenship and the equal treatment of Greek and Turkish citizens, etc.).
However, this fact does not nullify the role of the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot community in general in the effort to reach a solution. On the contrary! The convergence of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides on numerous issues creates a dynamic and perspectives.
Many people wonder whether it is ever possible to trust Erdogan’s Turkey so that we can come to an understanding with it. Can’t you see, they say, what they are doing in Syria? That’s a logical question. But the answer is simple. As regards this Turkey that can’t be trusted, is it better to continue to continue having it occupy a large part of our territory or is it better to try to find a solution that will put an end to its presence and role in Cyprus? Certainly, we prefer the second option. But to achieve that, a solution is required that will emerge from negotiations. Otherwise it will not happen, unless we believe in prophecies of ancient myths that will somehow set us free.
In any case, the only way for Turkey’s intentions to be checked is at the negotiation table itself and the continuation of the efforts for a solution opening up prospects. Stuck in inertia out of fear perpetuates and feeds partition, which is already on our doorstep.
Article by Stefanos Stefanou, AKEL Political Bureau member