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Post Cyprus Update: Another Christmas, Different Conditions
Created by John Eipper on 12/28/18 3:58 AM

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Cyprus Update: Another Christmas, Different Conditions (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 12/28/18 3:58 am)

The Cyprus problem started at Christmas time, precisely on December 21, 1963, with Greek Cypriot hordes attacking Turkish Cypriots with the intention of annihilating them all within 24 hours. This sad event, a product of the failed Akritas plan signed by "Commander Diegenis," as was reported by the Greek Cypriot media a while later, became known as the "Bloody Christmas."

The 1963 and subsequent attacks by the Greek Cypriot hordes failed to cleanse the island of the Turkish Cypriot element. Frustrated with pertinent failures, the colonels of Greece instigated on July 15, 1974 a coup to oust the Makarios government and to achieve Enosis, the annexation of the island to Greece. The coup triggered a Turkish intervention on July 20, 1974, which not only saved Turkish Cypriots, but brought a swift end to the coup administration on the Greek Cypriot side, as well as that of the colonels of Athens.

Now it is again Christmas time. Different winds are blowing on the island. It is as if the long-sought icebreaker might be finally found and the talks between the two sides that collapsed in July 2017 at the Crans Montana Swiss winter resort might be revived. An American diplomat, Jane Hall Lute, serving as the provisional special Cyprus advisor of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has been in shuttle diplomacy efforts between Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia. Her task is difficult. She will determine within weeks or months (or perhaps throw in the towel) whether there is a common ground on which a new round of talks might be constructed. Of course, apart from the so-called Guterres principles spelled out by the Secretary-General in a futile effort at Crans Montana to save the talks, a set of reference points to serve as guidelines in the new negotiations period must be prepared, if the talks are to be resumed.

It is difficult to understand why there is optimism that talks might be resumed. Ankara believes that the Crans Montana talks demonstrated that Greek Cypriots were not interested in a compromise deal to share power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality--which also requires a rotation of the presidency and key administrative positions between the two communities. For the sake of "effective governance," the Greek Cypriot side has even stepped several steps back and now publicly declares its opposition to the Turkish Cypriot demand for effective participation in governance, namely, requiring a yes vote from at least one Turkish Cypriot minister on key cabinet decisions, and a separate Turkish Cypriot quorum in parliament on matters considered to be of importance for Turkish Cypriots.

Opportunists, including Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, dream that probably within months, if not by Christmas 2019, it might be possible to fix the problem created at Christmas 1963, if the Greek Cypriot side shows good will and engages in a serious negotiations process which ought to include a painful give-and-take phase.  On matters such as power sharing to a rotation of the presidency, effective participation in governance, security arrangements and the future of the 1960 guarantee system--under which Turkey intervened and saved Turkish Cypriots in 1974--the two sides are far apart like white and black.  Will it be pessimistic to say a deal on Cyrus anytime soon cannot be in the cards, as long as the target of the talks is changed? If the two sides cannot establish a federation and the Greek Cypriots are unprepared to give back some power usurped from the partnership state in 1963, perhaps a confederation settlement or two states in the European Union or some other alternatives must be considered.

Anyhow, no one should dwell on the horrors of the 1963 Bloody Christmas. Remembering the past should not mean burying ourselves in past animosities. Yet to build a healthy future, the past must be examined and similar disaster should be avoided with effective preemptive measures. If the 1963-1974 genocidal Greek Cypriot attacks as well as the 1974 Turkish intervention on the island using its guarantor right are to be remembered, it is obvious that a more efficient security system is necessary for Cyprus. Engaging in foreplay of new talks with "zero troops, zero guarantees" obsession negates the possibility of any deal.

In any case, I wish a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year for everyone.

JE comments:  I believe it was Harry Papasotiriou who summarized the Cyprus standoff perfectly:  "The Greek Cypriots cannot remember what happened in 1963, and the Turkish Cypriots cannot forget."  Change the dates and the actors' names, and this could characterize any number of enduring animosities among neighboring ethnic groups.

Excellent update, Yusuf, and wishing you and your family a safe and productive 2019.  Please keep the WAIS posts coming!  I am confident of one thing:  the New Year will be full of news from Turkey.

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