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March 12, 2012
Cyprus: reunification, partition or annexation?
Reunification, partition or annexation: these are the options that Turkey’s EU Minister, Egemen Bağış, recently presented in the Turkish Cypriot daily Kıbrıs. In an interview he stated that one option was a unification formula acceptable to both communities, another was an agreement to form two states, and a third the annexation of northern Cyprus to Turkey.
The first is unlikely, the second is the option preferred by the Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu, and the third is the present situation, where northern Cyprus is de facto Turkey’s 82nd province. Or, as defined by the European Court of Human Rights, “a subordinate local administration”.
Bağış’ threat of annexation has caused a furore, not least among Turkish Cypriot politicians who support a federal solution, and who see Turkish rule as a threat to Turkish Cypriot identity. But, with the benefit of hindsight, this can be seen as the logical outcome of Turkish intervention in Cyprus since 1955.
When the Greek Cypriot underground organization EOKA revolted against British rule in 1955, its Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Volkan, forbade Turkish Cypriots to have social or financial contact with their Greek Cypriot neighbours. Three years later Volkan’s successor, TMT, enforced a “From Turk to Turk” policy, emphasizing the separation of the two communities.
In 1963, the power-sharing constitution collapsed and fighting broke out between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. However, as UN Secretary-General U Thant noted in his report to the Security Council in June 1965, “the Turkish Cypriot leadership is committed to physical and geographical separation of the communities as a political goal.”
In 1963 the Turkish Cypriots formed a General Council to administer their affairs, which was succeeded by the Provisional Turkish Cypriot Administration in 1967. In 1970 the term ‘Provisional’ was dropped and was replaced by ‘Autonomous’ four years later.
After the Turkish invasion in 1974, the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom accordingly noted in a declaration “the existence in practice in the Republic of Cyprus of two autonomous administrations, that of the Greek Cypriot community and that of the Turkish Cypriot community”.
In 1975 the Turkish Cypriots proclaimed the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus but the final step in the separation of the two communities was taken in 1983 with the unilateral declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Despite the incremental establishment of a Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, an Association Council was formed between Turkey and the TRNC in 1997 to achieve partial integration in the economic and financial fields and in matters of security, defence and foreign affairs.
So, the framework and infrastructure are in place to confirm the establishment of a Turkish state along the lines of the inclusion of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. However, both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots will be losers, because as Ban Ki-moon noted in his report to the Security Council in November 2010, “the overall peace dividend would be huge”.
The stumbling blocks in the current talks are the issues of governance, property, territory and citizenship. A federal solution would imply the creation of a Cypriot identity, but this is contrary to the Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu’s concept of two peoples and two sovereignties.
The fact that Greek Cypriots claim title to 78% of the property in northern Cyprus complicates the property issue, especially as title deeds to Greek Cypriot property have already been distributed to Turkish settlers or Turkish Cypriot refugees from the south. By way of contrast, abandoned Turkish Cypriot property is held in trust in the Government-controlled areas.
The chapter on citizenship concerns the disputed influx of Turkish settlers from the mainland, who have come to outnumber the remaining Turkish Cypriots. Indigenous Turkish Cypriots feel their cultural identity threatened, and two years ago Mehmet Çakıcı, chairman of the Turkish Cypriot Social Democracy Party (TDP), warned, “The Turkish Cypriots are facing the danger of being annihilated”.
Turkish Cypriots also complain that Turkey is trying to impose Sunni Islam on their community with Koran classes, the opening of a theological school and building more mosques than schools. In addition, last year the Turkish Cypriots held two mass demonstrations against Turkish rule.
More fuel has been added to the fire by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who, in an interview with the Turkish daily Radikal, opined that the international community must consider partition as an option. Furthermore, Mr Straw dismissed Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus since 1974 as “a land dispute”.
A different note was struck by Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who, in an Oslo lecture, spoke of the revival of ties of friendship and cooperation between the two communities, so Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can again live together beyond any ethnic, cultural or religious differences.
The last word, however, remains with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who at the end of March will decide whether there are sufficient convergences between the two parts to justify calling a multilateral conference in late April or early May.
Robert Ellis is a regular commentator on Turkish affairs in the Danish and international press.