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CYPRUS: Akinci left alone to face Ankara's bullying

09 February, 2019

* Turkish Cypriot pro-solution parties see carpet swept from beneath their feet by Anastasiades

By Kyriacos Kiliaris

As the date of the meeting between Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades draws nearer, opinions on how to deal with current issues remain diverse as ever.


While Anastasiades has recently presented a vague proposal over a decentralised federation, with rumours suggesting that he has even discussed a two-state solution with Ankara, Akinci seems to be a lone fighter for a federal bizonal solution.

Even in the north, Akinci’s stance does not seem to be backed by the traditionally pro-solution parties that have kept quiet leaving the Turkish Cypriot alone to face the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who during his last visit made comments essentially implying that federation is dead in the water.

During Cavusoglu’s recent visit, the longstanding disagreement between Akinci and Ankara over the nature of a settlement could not have been made more clear.

“Some people in north Cyprus keep on saying, ‘According to my ideology federation is the best’ and dictate what should happen,” said Cavusoglu, referring to Akinci. “The Cyprus issue is too grand to be sacrificed to someone’s political ideologies or political ambitions.”

“Of course, nobody can single-handedly dictate the solution model for Cyprus,” Akinci snapped back.

While Turkish Cypriot parties, traditionally opposing openly or covertly against a Bicomunal Bizonal Solution (BBS), were quick to jump on Cavusoglu’s train, the parties traditionally backing a BBS have kept quiet leaving Akinci to be bullyed by the Turkish FM.

Akinci is credited for showing Ankara that he would not yield to bullying on several occasions. Just a day after he was elected, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked him for calling for “brotherly relations” with Turkey rather than one of a “mother” and her “child”. Erdogan had warned Akinci to watch what he said and not forget that Ankara financed the Turkish Cypriots.

“I am behind everything I have said,” responded Akinci on live Turkish TV. “Not only am I aware of what I am saying, but I say it with my conscience, my heart and my mind.”

In an attempt to decipher the Turkish Cypriot parties’ stance towards a possible solution after the negotiation procedure crashed in Crans Montana and the latest comments made by Cavusoglu, the Financial Mirror contacted political analysts in the north for their input.

Ahmet Sozen, professor of political science and international relations at the Eastern Mediterranean University, explained that reactions following Cavusoglu’s latest visit have in many ways made the parties’ positions clearer.

Sozen said that the traditionally pro-TRNC powers pulled together their voices against a federal solution.

 

Not willing to share power

“Traditionally hard liners like UBP (National Unity Party) led by Ersin Tatar and the YDP (New Birth), the party set up by a group of right-wing settlers, were fast to orchestrate an attack on BBS, saying that the idea died in the Crans Montana negotiations crash,” said Sozen. He explained these parties argue that the whole process of negotiating on the grounds of a BBS has proven that the Greek Cypriot side is not willing to share political power with the Turkish Cypriots.

A traditionally pro-TRNC party, Serdar Denktash’ Democrat Party (DP) is a bit more shy in joining voices against a federal solution as the party is in a coalition government with two left groups, traditionally backing a BBS.

Joining the chorus, to the surprise of some Greek Cypriot analysts, is Kudret Ozersay’s People’s Party (HP). The former Special Representative at the negotiations of then Turkish Cypriot President Dervish Eroglu, and current number two of the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition, has always presented himself as being in favour of cooperation with the Turkish Cypriot leader.

“Although always stressing the need for cooperation, Ozersay was never a fierce proponent of a BBS. However, as it may appear, Ozersay’s willingness to jump on Cavusoglu’s train may be a signal that the pre-election period is officially open,” said the EMU professor.

Press reports and analysts expect that Ozersay intends to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in April next year.

“Ozersay is trying to put his stamp as someone able to handle the Cyprus problem. He was the one who brought up claims that the UN presence is making status quo more concrete. He claims that the UNFICYP peacekeepers’ presence is legitimising the current situation with the Greek Cypriots being perceived as the sole legitimate governors of the whole island,” Sozen explained.

Trying to explain the traditional left’s failure to respond to Cavusoglu’s comments and the general attack on BBS, Sozen said that the powers generally backing a federal solution to the Cyprus problem, said that essentially these parties have had the carpet swept from beneath their feet by Anastasiades’ statements regarding a decentralised federation.

“Adding to this rumours that Anastasiades has discussed a possible two-state solution with Cavusoglu have enhanced the belief amongst the Turkish Cypriot community that the Greek Cypriot side is to blame for the collapse as it does not want to share political power with Turkish Cypriots,” he said.

As Sozen said, these parties do not have the grounds to enter into a conflict with Turkey, especially while they are part of the ruling coalition in the north, when the Greek Cypriot leader does not appear to be on the same page.

“They claim that there is no need for a conflict before we find out what is really on the table, while as they support, Cavusoglu did not exclude a federal solution as he said everything is on the table,” he explained.

 

Playing it safe

Associate Professor of Economics and Administrative Sciences at the Cyprus International University, Sertac Sonan said that parties like CTP and Akinci’s TDP are playing it safe.

“While Akinci is taking a clear stance on the matter, they feel that there is no need to escalate things, especially when they do not know if a federal solution is even on the table. This would explain why the CTP affiliated paper Yeniduzen is keeping to a strategic silence,” said Sonan.

Commenting on Ozersay’s HP’s position, Sonan said that he perceives the former negotiator’s party as a softer version of TRNC supporters. “Pro-TRNC 2.0 if you will. Contrary to the prevailing elements in the UBP, they are not ultra-nationalists, while this does not make them pro-reunification either.”

“However, under specific circumstances it would not be surprising if we saw Ozersay supporting a ‘yes’ vote in a future referendum on a federal solution,” said Sonan.

Authors of many collective and individual theses and political analysis of tendencies regarding the Cyprus problem in the Turkish Cypriot community, and in collaboration with their Greek Cypriot colleagues, Sozen and Sonan agree that as far the support towards a federal solution is concerned Turkish Cypriots are not a homogenous block.

“According to recent research we’ve made, Turkish Cypriots’ first choice is a two-state solution with a federal solution coming second. This is mainly due to a widespread perception that Greek Cypriots are not willing to share power.

“On the other hand Greek Cypriots first choice is a unitary state, that is one person one vote. However, as with the Turkish Cypriots a federal solution comes in second, being accepted as highly desired, desired and tolerable. What I am trying to say is that a federal model is the only solution that would be accepted by both sides at a referendum,” concluded Sozen.