By Ozay Mehmet, Ph.D
Professor Emeritus of International Affairs,
Carleton University, CANADA
Everything must come to an end, even the Cyprus Problem, the never ending saga of Turkish and Greek Cypriots to find an acceptable formula of sovereignty sharing to live together in a united island.
It looks like the much-heralded Talat-Christofias talks are deadlocked, even though brave faces keep an appearance of guarded optimism, hoping, against all hope, that some miracle can still come their way.
Acrimony and angry words have replaced the earlier air of cordiality in these talks aimed at creating a new State in Cyprus. Talat has been accused of looking more like Denktas, uncompromising partitionist leader that dominated Turkish Cypriot politics for forty years. For his part, Talat has accused Christofias of negotiating in bad faith, making international agreements presuming that the existing Greek Cypriot Republic will live forever.
A year ago, shortly after Christofias surprisingly won at the polls against the intransigent Papadopoulos, the new chemistry of the Talat-Christofias talks was almost universally welcomed as the last real chance of peace and reconciliation in Cyprus.
Alas, now, after a year of slow and fruitless negotiations, hopes for a “made at home” solution are all but gone. In the latest property discussions, Christofias has adopted an uncompromising position demanding repossession and right of return for former Greek Cypriot owners, effectively rejecting the key provisions of the Annan Plan.
If Talat looks like Denktas, then Christofias appears more and more like Papadopoulos who passed away a month ago. Papadopoulos joined a long list of heart-broken Greek Cypriot leaders, like Makarios and Grivas, men who had conflicting visions of ENOSIS, union with Greece.
It is uncertain how deep-rooted old visions are in the hearts and minds of Greek Cypriots. Judging by the sentiments expressed not only at the Papadopoulos funeral, but by the wide cross section of the masses in the South, especially amongst the younger segments, the support is minimal at the grass roots for a genuinely equal power sharing with the Turkish Cypriots in a new State on the island.
Put simply, the vast majority do not want to give up the existing Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus, now an EU member for any new State in partnership with the Turkish Cypriots.
Moreover, the Greek Cypriot side is still busily pushing the legal card, trying to solve the property issue, the crux of the Cyprus Problem, through European courts. It looks now that the precedent-setting Orams case may have validity throughout the EU territory.
If that is indeed the case, and Europeans owning houses on previous Greek Cypriot owned land in the North, become subject to costly dispossession, then the real estate market in North Cyprus may well be dealt a mortal blow.
The Greek Cypriots may score big in European courts. They may even win new victories on the political and diplomatic arenas.
Europe has its own agenda with Turkey. Ollie Rhen, the Enlargement Commissioner has declared that the year 2009 will be a “critical test” in EU-Ankara relations. Ankara’s long standing ambition for EU membership may be dealt a mortal blow. Driven more by xenophobia, sometime in 2009, the EU may punish Turkey over Ankara’s refusal to open Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot shipping and accept the Greek Cypriot government as legitimate.
What would be the consequences of these Greek Cypriot victories? Permanent partition… Denktas who almost single-handedly managed to get Greek Cypriots into the EU in 2004, will be repaid the favor by Greek Cypriots celebrating their pyrrhic victory.
What about the Turkish Cypriots? They will, like it or not, be Turkified as more and more Turks will arrive and the North will come under Turkish dominance. That has been the steady trend since 1994 ever since the European court order against exports to Europe.
The public mood in the North, nervous as a result of the global financial crisis, is simply angry with politics and politicians, at home and abroad. They feel frustrated and let down.
There is anger at the failure of the EU to keep its solemn promises of ending the isolation and embargoes after the 2004 Referanda in which large amounts of EU money was spent to win a YES vote, only to be frustrated by the overwhelming OXI in the South.
When Talat replaced the old boss Denktas, hopes for an acceptable, comprehensive settlement were raised once more. These hopes were further fuelled with the surprising victory of Christofias in presidential election a year ago.
But alas! The dynamics of the Cyprus Problem are overwhelming leadership. The grassroots, both in the South and the North, are going nationalist and uncompressing.
In the North, Eroglu, the aging oligarch of the old guard has come out of retirement to take charge of the nationalist agenda. Early elections are planned for Spring 2009, and most likely a new coalition government will emerge with virtually no heart for the Talat-Christofias talks.
In fact, Talat himself will have to face presidential elections in 2010. By then, the Cypriot talks may well be buried because Ankara may receive bad news from Brussels that the EU has decided to call off, or suspend, negotiations for membership.
With no incentive left to negotiate, the Christofias-Talat talks will simply vanish away. No one will walk away from the talks; they will simply melt away like spring snow. And with that the last hope for a united Cyprus will disappear.