As we move toward an informal five-party conference on the Cyprus issue in New York, several questions arise. The first is whether the necessary preparation has been made and the right conditions have been created for the United Nations initiative to succeed. The answer is probably “no.”
The backdrop does not lend itself to any optimism. Athens has consistently shown its willingness for a constructive response to every effort undertaken by the international community, while it is steady in its support for the Republic of Cyprus.
However, Ankara is hardening its stance and moving away from the decades-old goal of reunifying the divided island.
Combined with the recent electoral defeat and retirement of the moderate Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, and his replacement by the nationalist Ersin Tatar, who operates as an extension of the Turkish government in Cyprus and insists on a two-state solution, any well-intentioned effort to reach an agreement is an uphill effort.
At the present Nicosia is also in the vortex of revelations and controversies that – regardless of the extent to which they are true – have tarnished the image of the Republic of Cyprus and make taking bold decisions much more difficult.
In this environment, the coveted mutually acceptable agreement – which would have to be confirmed by majorities in both communities on the island in simultaneous referenda – seems even more difficult.
It is not only the differences that separate the sides with respect to the guarantees and the presence of foreign troops, where in theory, one can imagine progress being achieved through complex formulas. It is also the issue of what the communities mean when they talk about “political equality.”
Should there be two independent states or a very loose confederation, which would in practical terms result in two separate state actors in the European Union whose level of autonomy would create problems in the functioning of the Union itself? Does the latter want Turkey to have a full say within the Union through a highly autonomous Turkish-Cypriot entity?
One doubts that. On the contrary, it seems that the EU wants a democratic, functional, federal Republic of Cyprus, free of foreign interventions.
Obviously, the fair, representative and effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in the decision making of a federal government in Cyprus must be ensured. But would the EU like them to have the institutional capacity to impede the smooth functioning of a country that is an equal member of the Union?